March - it's more than just winter's demilitarized zone

SOME Northerners wait until March to run for the sun. Then the cumulative effects of winter finally catch up with them. They just can't stand the prospect of one more sticky shovelful of snow. Will they wake up, a week before spring, to the sepulchral sound of a forecaster warning of a ''disturbance'' in the Rockies, moving across the Plains states? At the very thought, something in them snaps - like an icicle. Resisting the awful premonition that they and their golf clubs are going to be snowbound on the way to the airport, they take flight - flying, they trust, the sunny skies.

One March we traveled to Florida - on business, you understand. We stayed four days. Three days it rained. The fourth day it just glowered. We felt we deserved it.

What we're saying is, if you make it to March, then nature - even New England nature - expects you to go the distance. Maybe, on certain days, you have to compress your blue lips and repeat, ''Nothing really bad can happen in March'' - knowing this is a bit of a white lie, hoping it's not a snowy white lie. Still, by mid-March you're approaching the border, and the customs guard is flashing you a fairly warm smile. The country of winter is definitely in the rear-view mirror.

This, of course, creates another kind of problem for another kind of people - the folks who love winter above all seasons and in March mush toward the ultra-north, flapping their skis behind them and crying, ''Bring on the snowmakers!'' How unbearable for them to watch March turn into a cowardly lion before it turns into a lamb! How intolerable to see their beloved winter in shabby retreat, turning streets into sand-and-salt playboxes, leaving the shreds of December newspapers waving in the shrubbery like a tattered flag!

We can appreciate the position of both the polar bears and the sunflowers, abandoning in opposite directions March's in-between scene, neither white nor yet green but slush-gray, mud-brown. Transition is never simple. We all crave neat contrasts, clear distinctions.

Still, to skip March is like going out for popcorn when you think you've come to the slow part of a movie. When you hurry back down the aisle and '' 'Scuse me'' your way to your seat, can you be certain you didn't miss the one scene that might have illuminated the whole movie for you, and perhaps even changed your life? Cramming in the popcorn for all they're worth, your companions will mumble, ''You didn't miss a thing.'' But what else would they say?

And that's the way it is, walking out on March.

You might as well walk out on your children between the ages of 14-and-a-half and 16-and-a-quarter because you've decided that this is the dull season or the messy season of growing up.

Let's make it imperfectly clear, as any argument in favor of ambiguity should be. We're not recommending March for puritanical reasons - as the month to tough out in order to improve your character. Nor are we perversely sponsoring it as the most brilliant 31 days known to the cycle.

We're arguing for wholeness. There's just too much excerpting going on in our lives already.

Every evening our version of what went on in the day becomes the well-spliced videotape.

When we travel, we jet from coast to coast, from continent to continent, editing out hundreds and thousands of miles at a time. We get the bird's-eye view of everything - a blur followed by three dots . . . Our life threatens to become the Reader's Digest, as negotiated by a speed reader.

We could use a little more reminding that everything doesn't fit neatly, like a modular unit. There's a lot of varied and unclassifiable stuff in between. Praise be.

Could we appreciate either winter or spring if we didn't have our month of neither-nor?

Two cheers for ambivalence. Two cheers for March.

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