Spring is the cruelest month in the mountain West. Yes, I know that spring technically occupies three months as one-quarter of the four annual seasons. But here in northeastern Utah, it really only lasts a month. And it doesn't even last a distinct month; what I'm saying is that you get about 31 days of spring out of the calendar-correct 92-day season.
Everything about this season seems to be in conflict. You can't put away the snow shovel, yet you'd better awake the grumpy lawn mower from its winter hibernation. You can't plant tomatoes with confidence, yet the weeds are growing like weeds in hungry anticipation of late summer wildfires. You could go skiing but you might have to miss a softball game to do it. You can't park your car on the street overnight even though the city has decommissioned its snowplows for the season. You wear a sweater on the way to work but just sweat on the way home. The swimming pools are thinking about opening, but elsewhere, people still might be ice fishing in alpine lakes.
Meanwhile, the deer that have been munching on your trees and everything else around your house all winter seem reluctant to head for the hills.
Things that lurked below winter's white blanket are now slowly returning to life, but they sure don't smell like spring flowers. Depositing two poops a day for five months of winter, your tiny dog's creations are emerging like stinky little zombies from their snow-covered graves. Your friends are also emerging, magnetically drawn to the farmers' market that opens three months before anything actually on a farm is ready for harvest, so the farmers' market is really just a bake sale and a hippie crafts mart.
Road-repair crews also pop up through the snow like volunteer tulips, and just when you were looking forward to ice-free, cruise-controlled driving, four lanes narrow into one construction-free lane until late October when the cycle repeats itself. Orange cones are the true perennial flower of the West.
Springtime is the time when I look at my house and think: "Spring cleaning or arson, which will it be this year?" Since I just publicly said the word "arson," I probably am not going to get away with it. So, that leaves me with the inevitable; I have to face the winter's aftermath.
The longer days and disappearance of snow always make me wonder where all this stuff around the house and on the deck came from. Could the local thrift stores be sneaking into my house and yard and unloading stuff? These clothes seemingly belong to someone with bad taste who was either much fatter or thinner than I am now. I discover I have four bikes in the garage. How did I get four bikes when there are only 53 ideal days to ride a bike around here? Tangled hoses seem to have mingled with tangled Christmas lights and extension cords.
What about all that compost that didn't compost? It looks as fresh as the day I threw it in to molder. Didn't I get rid of the old lawn mower after I bought the new one? Guess not. On a positive note, I found the two missing left hand gloves and the Iowa State sock hat that went missing. All the snowmelt also means my lawn won't dry up and turn brown for at least another month.
Spring has snuck up on me again. The emerging days of warmth and gusty winds make me want to run and bike and soak up sun, but I have to rake and prune and stack dead branches on the curb to hit that one-week window where the town picks up the stuff. All the Oscar-winning movies are coming out on DVD, but I feel the need to spend more time outside and less time on the couch hibernating with technology. So I join my fellow winter-weary citizens at the not-so-farmers' market, where we warm ourselves with steaming cups of organic French roast, compare home repair stories and whine about the weather.
After nearly 30 years here, I really should have learned about spring by now.
Dennis Hinkamp is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado (hcn.org). He writes and whines in Logan, Utah.