Changes to dwarf man's labors

On some January days it is hard for me to feel sympathetic to winter in northern Vermont, hard not to fight it, hard to resist seeing nature as daring me to go out in the iciest weather, hard not to wish for any other climate or spring. But the days do lengthen until that point in late February when there is so much light that it is unarguable: spring is still inevitable.

Spring is a sudden season this far north - not too far from where the Connecticut River throws its shallow bends over toward New Hampshire to make room for scarcely populated Vermont towns like Maidstone or Bloomfield and leading on up to Canaan on the border. I live a little west in Caledonia County. I am high up looking out on hills and mountains in both states. There is some irony of nature that lets the cold settle here, making this climate colder than that further north in Quebec, delaying spring.

In late April and May the land is still naked, like fall, but unlike fall there is a rawness to the soaking soil, full streams, and everywhere the tree trunks are thick on the hills and mountains. In comparison to the grand scale of the views they look splintery, like a manic arrangement of dark toothpicks. The warmth of the air, the humidity, the haze of new color from the tree buds the active skies all add to the rawness and give a sense of impending growth.

Never do the efforts of man seem more humble than on those days when the calendar says spring and yet no green foliage has appeared to close down the horizons and the distance. The scale of nature is huge. Houses, businesses, and farms are meek human strivings beneath the White and Green Mountains. There is a pathos about someone's small new, brightly-colored ranch house turned into toy size by its surroundings. Even the most enduring old farmhouses fall victim to the effects of scale. Man's work is brave. In two hundred years he has marked here only a tiny portion of the whole.

But the changes are in force that will transform these perceptions. A warm, obscuring lushness will dominate. The sense of one's own power is enhanced by proximity to this power of nature. No memory of springs past can blunt the freshness of the experience.

By the end of June all feeling of pathos is gone. Heat and the long days that bring the solstice have pushed growth to a crazy pitch. Finally the tops of the ridges have achieved the full green of high summer. It is a heady time. Hedgerows are dense. The shade in the woods is solid. Fields are being mowed with hope for three cuttings. Green. Green Mountains.

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