The Mean Spring

Snow! Sun! Two kinds of weather at the same time in the Central Oregon spring.

Spring in Central Oregon is untamed, unfriendly, and moody. Not just wild but downright grumpy. Like a cranky old man being woken from a too-short sleep, his dinner burning, his chickens being bullied by coyotes, neighbor cats pooping in his garden, and his truck with two flat tires. Still, he takes the time to walk to the fence line and ask how you are*.

It snows even when it is sunny. Squalls are on and off for days. The wind blows and then calms. Rain. Fog. Every kind of weather, gray, crisp, blue. I still get up and out when it is cold, though less dark as the sunrise is earlier each day and I don’t have to drive in to work. The fescue is coming in bright green and the wax currants are leafing out. The gray skies make the color more vivid. The light, when you see it, is golden.

Now that we are home every day we realize the deer that used to seem like occasional visitors are actually around off and on all day. They are on the grass, in the paddock, criss-crossing our yard and hanging out in the bitterbrush. I now know why Mack stopped barking at them — he has been seeing them since he was home without us, witnessing the deer as Emma slept in her bed at the top of the stairs and we were away at schools and offices.

A massive dust devil whipped into shape behind the barn, I just saw it begin out of the corner of my eye. Taller than the house, it gained speed, pulled up dust, grass seed, and wood chips as it raced towards my car parked in the driveway. I had to remind myself it wasn’t a tornado, the car would stay put. Then it ran into the house, and dropped bark onto the length of the deck. The only wind of the day.

Red-tailed hawks have a nest in a nearby ponderosa. We’ve watched them take turns playing in the breezes. Circling over the sagebrush sea looking for mice, squirrels, or whatever looks delicious to a hawk. They screech like gulls.

Snow and hoar frost on a ponderosa pine
Snow and hoarfrost, just a couple of days ago.

The spell of home is broken by trips to town for food, booze, and sometimes internet access. Stripes of tape on the floor space people out in line at the grocery store, though we pass closely in aisles, no one making eye contact. Plexiglass windows shield the cashiers. No one knows who is a threat, but it’s hard not to feel both suspicious and guilty. The two men who work at the liquor store wear gloves but otherwise laugh and joke with each other. I linger a moment. The world is not ending at the liquor store.

The rhythm of the neighborhood hasn’t changed. The neighbors are still strolling down the street. We wave. The plumbers come and go from the shop to the west. The dogs wake us for breakfast at 5 AM. We still don’t see the people that we rarely saw before. I am not lonely, especially. Anxiety creeps in like grains of sand under the door, but there is always the vastness out the window to take in a longer view.

Yesterday it hailed for 15 minutes, quite long for a hailstorm! It pinged on the stovepipe and shot diagonally from the garage roof. The ground went from soggy brown to a blanket of white pea-sized ice. The storm moved on, the ice melted. Today, there is another beautiful sunrise and it smells like spring.

I’ll see you when I see you, friends. Hopefully soon.

*Not a real neighbor.

Laurel Hunter

Laurel Hunter

Central Oregon, USA