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Trip outdoors can break melancholy of March

We have been so used to shutting down when it became dark in late afternoon, that being active until the later sunset now seems to drain us of energy
1982_Wye Marsh_Eva Kaiser and Mark Stuckey
This photograph of a family campfire was taken 37 years ago, and the memory is as vivid as if it were just last weekend. Supplied photo/David Hawke

Maybe it's just the time of year, but each March many people, myself included, get a tad melancholy.

Each day passes looking much the last... and tomorrow is shaping up to be a lot like today. Ho-hum. Is it just us, or are we missing something?

We have been so used to shutting down when it became dark in late afternoon, that being active until the later sunset now seems to drain us of energy. And so we're tired, edgy and bored (never a good combination).

Sometimes our down-in-the-dumps mood could be mistaken for some greater cause, but for me it's really just wondering how to cope until one can indulge in all the activities that spring will bring. 

But we Grumpy Ones manage, we always do.

Once that warm (and I mean real warm) spring zephyr brushes against our face, our pace will pick up, our spirits will lift a bit, and we'll look forward to lunching outside and walking briskly through parklands.

But for now many of us are still stuck in 'melancholy-ville'.

A friend recently commented that I seemed to have lost my spiritual connection with the Earth, and that it was sad to see such a loss. Hmm, I have been preoccupied with other things lately… but have I lost touch with what really matters?

Truthfully, I don't think so. If someone has a connection with the land, the waters, and the life contained therein, that connection will always be there.

But sometimes it can become 'buried' under the day-to-day trivia of life, especially office-bound winter life.

However, and thankfully, it only takes an amazingly small event to trigger an avalanche of debris to slide away and let that good spirit surface again.

Maybe it's a scent, a spoken phrase, a scene, or a random thought that takes hold; whatever it may be, past memories can come rushing back like a spring wind through an open window.

Today, as I trudged around filling bird feeders, I head a chickadee sing. Not the scolding "dee-dee-dee" of winter, but a cleanly whistled "sweeeet - spriiing".

A couple of careers ago, my assistant Brad and I were presenting a maple syrup demonstration to the guests of the resort where we worked. I was not pleased with the prelude to this event  — cold days, colder nights, freezing rain in the forecast — not at all conducive to start the sap running.

We had hung sap buckets yet not a drop appeared. What to do?

Brad came up with the idea of brewing wild teas, natural drinks from sumac berries, hemlock needles and cedar twigs. And so we re-promoted the maple syrup event as a Wild About Tea event — and I cringed at the thought of how we would have to deal with disappointed guests.

As it was, the people came, they sipped, they were amazed, they had a great time. Nobody seemed to really miss the syrup-making process.

As I chatted with one father, he let me know how much he appreciated this opportunity for a family outing.

He had grown up beside a large farm on the edge of Toronto, where the fields were full of goldfinches and deer could be observed at least once a week. He roamed the fencelines looking for groundhogs and garter snakes, and was often late for meals due to boyhood adventures.

He, and now his family, still live in that area, but the fields have turned into malls and apartments.

His children might see a squirrel in the greenbelt park, but that's about it. And so to come to our little clearing in the woods, to sit on a straw bale by an open fire, to show his children at least a touch of what the 'good life' consists of, was a real highlight for him.

After his family left us (off to play video games?) there was a lull in the shifting of the crowds.

Brad and I sat quietly, sipping sumac tea, tending the fire, waiting for the next family to wander down the trail.

There was something about that last conversation that went deep inside me. Such a simple thing, this fire and some boiling water, had just been planted a life-long memory into his children.

A chickadee landed above us in the hemlock tree, whistled it's well-known "sweet-spring" call, and was gone. Brad and I smiled at each other; spring was coming.

Another tiny memory, but just as precious as any other.