We almost missed this cosmic sign that spring is here


Just a few mornings after the vernal equinox, the rising sun no longer aligns with our driveway.

It was 10 days ago — Monday, March 20, to be precise — that Douglas and I paused at the end of our driveway and looked back up toward the house before heading out on our morning run. Well, to be accurate, he’s the one who runs, pounding through an ambitious three-mile course that leaves him sweaty and virtuous. I walk with our new dog, Molly, down to the end of the point and back, a mile-and-a-half amble that leaves Molly empty and me serene. Weather, time and disposition permitting, we do this three times a week.

But that Monday morning, just minutes after the sun had risen over the river behind us, we realized we had almost missed an amazing astronomical event that we are privileged to observe just twice each year. On the morning of the autumnal and vernal equinoxes, the sun’s first rays shoot straight up our driveway and illuminate the bank behind the apple tree with a special intensity. Not only that, but the shadow of the utility pole next to the road runs exactly — exactly! — parallel to the driveway. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the shimmering vibration of this cosmic alignment. Or maybe that’s the traffic up on Route One, it’s hard to tell. Still, it’s a pretty remarkable moment, and one we like to recognize.

Douglas and his late wife, Janet, named this delightful phenomenon Drivewayhenge. I love it for the way it domesticates the enormity of the whirling, unfathomable universe and brings it right home to Sandy Point, our driveway, our apple tree. It reminds us in a measurable way, that once again and perpetually, the seasons are turning.

(It occurred to me as I was writing this that our house must be located at or near the 45th parallel, and indeed, Google Maps puts us at 44.51 degrees of latitude. So we’re just about smack-dab halfway between the north pole and the equator here, which is kind of cool.)

I usually try to force a little spring preview into the house. Here, some prunings from the peach tree warm up on the windowsill. I’m hoping they’ll leaf out.

I’ve lived in Maine virtually all my adult life and I know that neither the vernal equinox nor the arrival of April signifies the end of wintry weather. In fact, the forecast is calling for another round of heavy, wet snow at the end of this week. But even without the hard evidence of Drivewayhenge, there are subtle signs of spring all around us.

There’s a softness to the air and a growing kindliness to the light. And that light is lasting longer, not only because of the jumping-ahead of daylight savings time a few weeks ago, but because the arc of the sun itself is lengthening and and strengthening.

The buds are emerging on the gnarled old apples trees along the driveway, on the peach trees at the top edge of our field and the graceful dancing plum in the field itself, on the ancient lilac bush in the dooryard and the gangly forsythia Douglas and I planted together the first spring I lived here. All these trees and shrubs will need a good pruning soon, before they swoon headlong into blossom and leaf.

The other morning, when I stepped outside to feed the ingrate crows their daily English muffin, I was greeted with the high, sweet note of a songbird calling from the thick of the lilac. I couldn’t make out what it was — possibly a cardinal. They winter-over here, becoming braver and more assertive as the days lengthen. And Molly and I recently were loudly serenaded on our walk to the point by a mourning dove, startlingly close and sounding positively lovesick from its hidden perch in the pines.

These are all small, ephemeral changes that herald the coming spring, signs that will ebb and resurge as the snow melts away and the weather trends warmer. More concrete are the two boxes on the hallway table that arrived last week from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. One contains a modest selection of vegetable and flower seeds. In the other is a kit to create a drip irrigation system to help keep the garden beds watered without running our well dry, as we did last summer on several occasions.  

Don’t get me wrong. We’re not ready yet to put away the snowblower or bring out the garden chairs. We know better than to pack up our Bean boots and parkas. We really wouldn’t mind another snowy tramp in the woods before the winter wraps up, or a chance to get out on our skis, which we haven’t done even once this year. We’re prepared to hunker down and enjoy another good storm or two. But the signs are all there, once again, that winter is winding down and another sweet springtime is filtering in.

Read more of Meg Haskell at livingitforward.bangordailynews.com


Meg Haskell

About Meg Haskell

Meg Haskell is a curious second-career journalist with two grown sons, a background in health care and a penchant for new experiences. She lives in Stockton Springs. Email her at mhaskell@bangordailynews.com.