No, not that March Madness, although we have a saying about “mad as a March hare.” I mean the compelling desire for any sign of spring, the sense of cabin fever, going stir crazy – all that. This year seems particularly bad, or long, or icy, or endless.
I am somewhat bemused when I go to write, since I keep Mark Twain’s words of warning to writers in mind. “The people of New England are patient …but … some things they will not stand. Every year they kill a lot of poets for writing about ‘Beautiful Spring.’ ” I’m not exactly sure I could manage that right now – I have sort of forgotten what ‘Beautiful Spring’ is. But we are all dreadfully tired of winter. The lake froze over. They say for the first time since 2015, as if that were a historical date of standing, but really? I suppose if you’ve only lived here since 2016 that might be a focal point to remember, but I am unimpressed.
It is so tempting to expect spring in March, but for your own sanity I urge you not to. March entices but never promises, and if she goes out like a lamb it is only because we are still wearing our woolen sweaters. NEVER underestimate March! In 1888 there were two historic blizzards. The first, in the upper Midwest. was in January. It was horrible, but it was in season. The second, in the Northeast, was on March 11 to 14, when everyone was expecting spring. It was a gigantic storm, with hurricane force winds and bitter cold.
If you wonder why everyone runs out and gets supplies when they hear a storm is coming, you can use this as an example. In the first place they didn’t know it was coming, or at least they were only expecting a rainy spring storm. The this descended. In cities like Boston there were shortages of food and fuel. Most urban people heated with coal, but supplies quickly ran low when trains couldn’t get through to deliver. In fact, trains ran on coal so they were probably not fueled either. Trains were stranded in huge drifts – Massachusetts got 4 feet or more of snow. Most of Vermont got less, but there was still plenty to go around. Between 10 and 40 inches blanketed the state.
The snow began wet and warm, and it stuck to everything and brought down telegraph poles, roofs, and more. Communications were reduced to primitive levels. Folks stranded on trains could let no one know where they were or how long they would be there. Then the winds grew cold. No heat, no fuel, no food, and then the cold. Over 400 people died in that storm. New York City was similarly affected. People climbed out of their homes to go to work, and then got stranded on the El. The stock exchange shut down for three days. Gas and water mains, which were above ground, froze, and services quit. There were problems up and down the coast, from Chesapeake Bay up through Maritime Canada.
If you search “Images, New England Blizzard 1888” you will be led to an array of photos of more winter than seems plausible. Everything was at a standstill. Even now such amounts of snow are difficult to remove, especially from cities – think of doing it all without trucks and loaders. As a result of the blizzard, Boston began work on its subway system; New York soon followed. You could call that a silver lining if you were a mind to. Just remember – that was March! Don’t turn your back on her.