FRED FIRST: Life in Neither / Nor – When We Want to Hurry Slower

This will be our last Mud Month in Virginia.

I grow impatient for change this time of year—every ordinary plodding March of the year. I am especially unsettled at this agonizing point in frozen time when we don’t seem to be moving any closer to The Move, over which we have no control and about which we have no certainty.

I want the calendar to move along already. And I want it to slow down.

The second half of March, as usual here in the mountains, we live in Neither-nor. Our Virginia roots here lose their grip just slightly every day and we acknowledge our helplessness to make things move along one bit faster.

We cling to the life we know. We already miss the friends we spend time with today, knowing in a year we will be a world away. What we touch and see today we will only hold in memory next March. Slow down!

I will feel more grounded and hopeful on the other side of Neither-Nor. Not quite spring, not quite winter. Not living here; not living there. The season—like our future plans—is temporarily stuck before things that are suddenly moving too fast to enjoy the change. But we will make a special effort to remember.

from Slow Road Home
Circa March 2004

The grass out the back door piles up in unkempt tangles, dark green, growing explosively from winter’s unspent reserves; and this morning it is dusted with a skiff of late March snowflakes. The birds—titmice, bluebirds, robins—sing from bare branches, come down to the cold ground hungry and wonder, why did they arrive South before dinner was served?

The only color, save for hidden greens in the pasture under last year’s dead dun and taupe, is the yellow-greens of the tiny flowers of spicebush along the creeks and edge of the field. Every other color this time of year is high overhead in the red buds of maple and sarvice and cherry that are brilliant when the sun shines brightly. But that is just the matter.

Just when the imperceptible rainbow potential of nature is being birthed in miniature of bud and stem so fast you could hear it if you truly listened, the gray damp season of Neither/Nor descends with a vengeance in late March throwing a cold, wet blanket on the party.

It has been three days since we have seen the sun. It will be another week before we see it again. We will endure another week of tiny fires in the wood stove because it is just cold enough for the house to lose a few degrees too much heat at night for the next day’s comfort.

We will endure another week of wet mud before the garden can dry enough for tilling. There will be one more week of sepia-toned somber days that are more like winter than the coveted season that will thaw the mud and covers bare branches with translucent green leaves, the size of mouse ears.

Then. The sun will suddenly appear with all its bags as if it has come to stay. Neither/Nor will be a memory of a time when we needed a bit more patience than we had for life to return to longer days. And it will be for all the world like a surprise party where out pops the world of color again.

SURPRISE! And the yellows of bellworts and field cress, the maroons and reds of trilliums and columbine and redbud, and the whites of bloodroot, hepatica and anemone will explode all at once, as if they had been planning this event for months.

And then it will be spring!

– Fred First is an author, naturalist, photographer watching Nature under siege since the first Earth Day. Cautiously hopeful. Writing to think it through. Thanks for joining me. Subscribe to My Substack HERE

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