Menominee’s North Pier Lighthouse is framed by a 40-foot ice shove on Tourist Beach on Thursday [EHExtra.com, 3-25-11]
The onset of spring was more dramatic in the U.P. than in Cincinnati because of the longer, harsher winters. I saw on Facebook the other day that the U.P. was buried by a huge blizzard this past Wednesday. Menominee and Marinette got 13 inches of snow, the heaviest one-day March storm in recorded history. With 32 m.p.h. winds blowing in from from Green Bay, First Street was completely shut down by snowdrifts for 24 hours, all the local schools and businesses closed, and 3500 families lost their electricity. Hopefully that’s winter’s last hurrah for 2011.
The most joyous marker of spring in our family was Chinese Bells Day which occurred annually around late March or early April. It’s the day the ice in the Menominee River goes out. Our father gave it its name because the tinkling from the flowing ice sounded like tiny bells. We carved the date each year in the wall separating our living room and dining room, and, by the time our house was sold in the 1970’s, the list of dates spanned half the distance between floor and ceiling. Chinese Bells Day was exciting in part because of all the bric-a-brac which got swept along in the river’s current – tin cans, bottles, flowerpots, children’s toys. Sometimes you would see somebody’s wooden dock or even a rowboat or a canoe. We would put on my grandpa Guy’s hip-waders and venture out from the riverbank in the freezing water with a bamboo fishing pole, trying to retrieve objects that came within a 10-foot reach. We never caught a boat or probably anything else of much value, but we did corral some minor objects of interest.
Spring was exciting for numerous reasons, a main one being that we could count off on our fingers the weeks remaining before summer vacation. During the first few years that we lived on Riverside Boulevard, before the dirt and gravel road got paved with blacktop, car traffic after the ground thawed and the ice and snow melted created foot-deep ruts in the mud and made the road impassable till a dry spell occurred. That, of course, meant extra vacation days from school. As soon as the trillium bloomed in the woods at Brewery Park, my mother would send us to pick a bouquet to bring to our Washington School principal, Miss Guimond.
Though not as dramatic, the start of spring in Cincinnati is still exciting. We’ve had a cold snowy winter, and we’re ready for a more benign environment where it’s less easy to get knocked over by rambunctious sheepdogs. The season for flea markets, outdoor antique shows, and yard sales starts revving up in a week or two. We look forward to April’s flower festival at the zoo, and Katja’s hinting about an early trip to Kings Island. We’ll make more use of our patio, grilling hot dogs on our fancy new propane stove. I’m eager too to take Mike and Duffy camping as soon as we get some 45 degree weather at night. Best of all, nature shifts from months of death and dormancy to a season of rebirth and rejuvenation, something which can’t help but lift our soggy spirits.
I took the dogs to Parker Woods on Thursday afternoon for a spring photo shoot. The forest has been transforming itself in recent days. Though wildflowers are still scarce, the parts of the forest floor exposed to sun are becoming covered with a luscious green carpet, and buds are turning into pale green leaves on the shrubs. We’d walked pretty far into Parker Woods when raindrops started coming down, so we turned around. When we were about halfway back, the skies grew darker, and the tornado sirens started going off in the distance. The wind had picked up quite a lot, making it a little difficult to walk standing straight up. I put the dogs back on their leashes and started moving more quickly. The rain picked up more, but we were back at the car soon and then glad to be home. I decided I’d been overly nervous until I heard on the news that night that a woman had been killed in another area park by a healthy red oak tree felled by the 70-hour winds. Spring is our favorite time around here, but I always forget that it’s tornado season as well. Here are a few pics from our outings, including visits this week to Burnet Woods, Buttercup Valley, and Mt. Airy as well. It’s looking pretty springy out there.