Sixty degrees

60 degrees2 - 1


NOAA weather discussion for 4.18.19:  “It will be a delightful spring day in the Northern Rockies today as high temperatures rise into the 60s in western Montana and low 70s in central Idaho.  Missoula has only experienced a 60 degree day once this spring on April 2, Kalispell hasn’t seen 60 since October 24.

At 52 degrees yesterday, after the rain had stopped, it felt warm enough to drive to the other side of the lake, down to Dayton, where our sailboat has been dry-docked all winter.  It was time to see what kind of damage she may have suffered.  We park the car and then walk around trying to find it, hoping to remember what it looks like.  We are all alone there and the only sound is rigging slapping against masts in the spring winds.  If I were a composer, I would record that sound and write haunting music to accompany it.  I often say that my favorite thing about owning a sailboat is seeing how the rails catch golden light in a sunset, as she is moored to the blue and white buoy off our dock.   A second favorite thing is going to visit her, standing tall and regal among her mates in a dry-dock field, with the snow-covered Mission Mountains in the background, and that sound of rigging being lashed by the wind.

The full moon was a soft yellow as it set over the western mountains this morning, in blue-pink light.  The geese went honking by and the loon is out there somewhere.  Don’s been burning a slash pile in the woods the past few days, and wood smoke fills the air.  The stone terrace and steps are dry, and waking up to a weather forecast that begins, “It will be a delightful spring day…” is a grand way to start a morning.  I’ll believe it when I see it if it reaches 60 degrees down here by the water, but it’s moving in that direction.  We wait so very long for spring in the north country.  Friends are pulling out with their campers and headed to southern Utah, so they can soak up the heat of red rocks in sunshine.   We’ve been saying to ourselves, “why are we not leaving?”, even as we have a trip booked to Berkeley in just a few weeks.  We reaffirm to ourselves that April really is the hardest month.

And yet, with 60 degrees in the forecast, on this moon-lit morning, it doesn’t seem quite so awful.   In fact, as John Koethe writes in his poem, “Now the clouds are lighter, the branches are frosted green/And suddenly the season that had seemed so tentative before/Becomes immediate, so clear the heart breaks…
The Late Wisconsin Spring
By John Koethe
Snow melts into the earth and a gentle breeze   
Loosens the damp gum wrappers, the stale leaves   
Left over from autumn, and the dead brown grass.   
The sky shakes itself out. And the invisible birds   
Winter put away somewhere return, the air relaxes,   
People start to circulate again in twos and threes.   
The dominant feelings are the blue sky, and the year.   
—Memories of other seasons and the billowing wind;   
The light gradually altering from difficult to clear
As a page melts and a photograph develops in the backyard.   
When some men came to tear down the garage across the way   
The light was still clear, but the salt intoxication   
Was already dissipating into the atmosphere of constant day   
April brings, between the isolation and the flowers.   
Now the clouds are lighter, the branches are frosted green,   
And suddenly the season that had seemed so tentative before   
Becomes immediate, so clear the heart breaks and the vibrant   
Air is laced with crystal wires leading back from hell.   
Only the distraction, and the exaggerated sense of care   
Here at the heart of spring—all year long these feelings
Alternately wither and bloom, while a dense abstraction   
Hides them. But now the mental dance of solitude resumes,   
And life seems smaller, placed against the background   
Of this story with the empty, moral quality of an expansive   
Gesture made up out of trees and clouds and air.
The loneliness comes and goes, but the blue holds,   
Permeating the early leaves that flutter in the sunlight   
As the air dances up and down the street. Some kids yell.   
A white dog rolls over on the grass and barks once. And   
Although the incidents vary and the principal figures change,   
Once established, the essential tone and character of a season   
Stays inwardly the same day after day, like a person’s.   
The clouds are frantic. Shadows sweep across the lawn   
And up the side of the house. A dappled sky, a mild blue   
Watercolor light that floats the tense particulars away   
As the distraction starts. Spring here is at first so wary,   
And then so spare that even the birds act like strangers,   
Trying out the strange air with a hesitant chirp or two,   
And then subsiding. But the season intensifies by degrees,   
Imperceptibly, while the colors deepen out of memory,   
The flowers bloom and the thick leaves gleam in the sunlight   
Of another city, in a past which has almost faded into heaven.   
And even though memory always gives back so much more of   
What was there than the mind initially thought it could hold,   
Where will the separation and the ache between the isolated   
Moments go when summer comes and turns this all into a garden?   
Spring here is too subdued: the air is clear with anticipation,   
But its real strength lies in the quiet tension of isolation   
And living patiently, without atonement or regret,
In the eternity of the plain moments, the nest of care   
—Until suddenly, all alone, the mind is lifted upward into   
Light and air and the nothingness of the sky,   
Held there in that vacant, circumstantial blue until,
In the vehemence of a landscape where all the colors disappear,   
The quiet absolution of the spirit quickens into fact,   
And then, into death. But the wind is cool.   
The buds are starting to open on the trees.
Somewhere up in the sky an airplane drones.

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