The Meat and Potatoes of Life
Savoring the eternal optimism of spring
Special to Stars and Stripes April 7, 2023
My breathing is labored. After a long winter indoors, riding my bike winds me more than usual. But it feels good to be outside, forcing my muscles to move my body through the crisp, cool spring air.
At the top of the hill, I turn down Narragansett Avenue and let momentum propel me toward Dutch Harbor with its sparkling navy blue water, rows of dry-docked sailboats and boarded-up lobster shack awaiting hungry summer tourists. My wheels spin, and I think of all the places we’ve lived during my husband’s 28 years in the Navy, the places that were deprived of four distinct seasons. The kinds of places that people move to when they retire. Florida, the South and coastal California.
After my husband’s military retirement, we picked Rhode Island, the kind of place where it often snows in April and that people make weather-related jokes about. “It’s so cold in New England, Grandpa’s teeth were chattering ... in the glass.” “How are things in Rhode ICEland this winter?’” “New England has four seasons: Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and three months of Bad Sledding.”
After circling the crushed clamshell boatyard, I pedal southward, riding through neighborhoods of gray shingled houses overlooking the marsh. Tender blades of new grass paint a verdant wash over the yards. Purple, white and yellow crocuses twitch in the gentle breeze, and smiling young daffodils wave fresh green arms at me.
Rounding a corner, I catch a whiff of something smelly, and think it must be the sprouts of skunk cabbage I see emerging from wet earth and rotting flora in the leafless forest near the marsh. A cold, clear stream runs fast beside the road. Clumps of moss shine emerald in dappled sunlight. Mallard couples gather items for hidden nests of spring ducklings.
Up ahead, I hear a cacophony of chirps, like summer crickets. At this time of year? I quicken my pace, determined to investigate. I stop just past a yellow clapboard farmhouse. Beyond a stacked-stone fence, a spring-fed pond is swollen beyond its banks, flooding the spiked necklace of baby reeds surrounding it. The water shimmers, reflecting the periwinkle sky above and the promise of new life just below its surface.
The chirping ceases when I approach the stone wall. I stand stock still, listening to the huff of my own heavy breathing, and wait. One by one, they begin again, until their high-pitched mating chorus sings. They aren’t summer crickets, they’re spring frogs, invisible to my eyes but crystal clear to my ears.
I carry on toward home, past our local public beach, Mackerel Cove. Its crescent shoreline is empty but for a few walkers hoping to find well-worn beach glass among the flotsam and jetsam being carried ashore on cold laps of salt water. In two months, sailboats will dot the horizon, lifeguard chairs will reappear, a Del’s Frozen Lemonade truck will open for business and the beach will buzz with barefoot tourists. For now, it rests, restores and rejuvenates.
Back on Narragansett Avenue, I pass the town’s three churches — Central Baptist, St. Matthew’s and St. Mark, preparing themselves for Easter Sunday, when townspeople will gather to celebrate rebirth. Children will fidget in the pews, anticipating the day’s festivities. When the final song is sung, they’ll burst from the church in search of hidden eggs, foil-covered chocolates, sticky sugared marshmallows and jellybeans. The peals of children’s laughter will wind through neighborhoods, hitching a ride on the aroma of roasting hams.
I turn down my street and see the old shingled house we bought five years ago after retiring from active duty military life. Her wide porch welcomes me home. Plopping into a wicker chair, I turn my face to the afternoon sun. I’m warm, maybe even a little sweaty under my jacket, and it’s only 48 degrees. In the five years since military retirement, I’ve become a New Englander all right, the kind of person that experiences a sunny spring day and feels a rush of irrational optimism.
Everything seems eager, expectant, emerging, excited. Grateful for the beauty all around me, I close my eyes and say to God, “Please, don’t let it snow in April.”
Hope springs eternal.
Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email: email@example.com