The snow may still be knee-high, but we’ve taken to lounging in the afternoon sun.
Sam and I sprawl comfortably on our snowmobiles behind the cabin, our version of lawn chairs. A cup of tea or coffee is tucked in behind the windshields. Heat radiates from the black seats, the air turned all wobbly with the giddiness of spring.
You can almost watch the snow melt.
Dozens of little wings erupt around us, underlined by excited chirps, as the redpolls and pine siskins sort out their pecking order. They are inordinately fond of the yellow pee spots that dot the snow – each one sports a halo of bird tracks like so many exclamation marks.
The trouble with being top bird and keeping the proletarian masses in check is that it doesn’t leave much opportunity for doing anything else. The bossiest bird is so busy opening his beak and raising his wings to threaten off his buddies that he hardly finds the time to enjoy a helping of pee himself.
I’ve suggested to Sam that he replenish this strangely popular bird treat in a long line to provide a more egalitarian smorgasbord for our feathered friends, but so far, I see no evidence that he’s taken my idea seriously. It’s hard for me to take the initiative due to, obviously, my different set of plumbing. I mention it to him again but he only grunts, face turned up to the sky. His mouth hangs half open. Our afternoon conversations are like that, once sun drowsiness takes hold.
Spring has sprung, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve put on jeans for the first time in, oh, about six months. Not only that, but a cotton hoodie as well (cotton, people, not fleece!). True, I’m still wearing the good old thermal underwear underneath and my feet are still encased in heavy boots, but, other than that, I’ve shed my wintry layers of wool and fleece. One advantage of being human – the dogs pant and burrow their noses deep into the snow, since getting rid of their winter coats is a more lengthy process.
Like a parent trying to make up for lost time, the sun is flooding us with guilt-inspired uberattention. Never mind its most unreliable and weak presence all winter, now it’s back and overcompensating. We’re turning a new page. Take this ray and that, here you are, look how nice, I’ll be spending time with you all day, and soon all night as well. The sunshine reflects off the snow and drenches our clothes, our skin, unrelenting, seeps inside of us. We’re struck dumb by its warmth.
The little birds flutter up in alarm and wheel over us when the dogs get up and stretch. Something wet lands on my cheek. I wipe at it: luckily, no bird poop. Only pure snow without a yellowish admixture, I hope. Hot, moist doggie breath washes over me as Nooka comes over to check my vital signs.
“Hm? I’m OK,” I murmur and squint at her. Ribbons of drool hang off her tongue.
“Go eat snow,” I advise groggily and grope for my sunglasses to shove them up into my hair. I’m on a quest to get rid of the raccoon circles around my eyes since our faces have taken on the alarming look of a make-up job gone horribly wrong.
Above the lily-white stem of my neck rises the tanned expanse of chin, cheeks and forehead, startlingly split by a pale horizontal strip of sunglasses-protected skin around my eyes. It reminds me of my old junior high English teacher who carefully applied dark foundation to only the front of her face, giving the impression that her neck and ears were utterly unconnected, independent entities.
Twittering nervously, the first two birds land in the snow again and begin pecking at a pee spot, carefully watched by their companions in a nearby tree. Unencumbered by such things as jackets, mittens or hats, I hang my legs over the handle bars and bask. How strange that I’m comfortably warm in my jeans and hoodie at plus five degrees.
In the fall, the same temperature makes me grab my jacket and hat. I guess it just goes to show that it’s all a matter of perspective: what constitutes a warm day, the things that qualify as lawn furniture, and the dietary preferences of birds.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.