White to green, with brown in between

It’s been a few weeks since any friends in tropical locales like Florida, Texas, the Carolinas and Massachusetts have called me to inquire if winter has ended yet here in the nation’s northeastern terminus. Many woefully misinformed Americans seem to think Maine’s year-round climate is a polar one, and that our fair state would be more aptly labeled as East Alaska. It is for the benefit of these condescending sun belters and Massho……., er, Massachusettsers that I’ll set the record straight. The piles of snow at the end of my driveway are merely shin-high these days, and I expect that they’ll be gone completely by May Day at the latest.

Too many people simply assume that when the white of winter fades, the green of spring immediately follows. That may be true in some parts of the country, but it’s rarely if ever the case here in the nation’s far northeast.

In these parts winter concludes on the calendar several weeks before spring’s actual arrival. The last white-specked-with-sandy-gray snow piles don’t instantly transform into lush greenery any more than a caterpillar crawls into a cocoon one night and wakes up a butterfly the next morning. Here in America’s lone one-syllable state, nature’s predominant hue in April and early May isn’t green, but brown.

If any color on the spectrum has undeservedly gotten a bad name, it’s brown. Roses may be red and violets may be blue (actually, aren’t they violet?), but the first brown thing that comes to mind isn’t terribly attractive, and it definitely doesn’t smell like roses or violets. It’s also the pigment (and name) associated with a perennially lousy National Football league team.

Brown is the Rodney Dangerfield of colors; it truly gets no respect. If Brown were a third grader, it’d be the last kid selected when sides are being picked for kickball. If Brown was a vegetable it would be Lima Beans; were it distributed on Halloween night it’d undoubtedly be candy corn. Turnips are the Brown of Thanksgiving; at Christmas Brown is fruitcake. If Brown were a movie it would probably be, ironically enough, The Color Purple, a 1986 film that was nominated for eleven Academy Awards but didn’t win any.

But every so often Brown gets some well-deserved love. Maple syrup, eggs and potatoes are brown. So are almonds, chocolate, and, ummm….chocolate-covered almonds. Musician James Brown was dubbed “The Godfather of Soul” by his admirers. Charlie Brown is, with the possible exception of his dog Snoopy, the most beloved cartoon character in American history. And when people who like arguing about silly things debate the identity of the 20th century’s greatest athlete, professional football hall-of-famer and All-American collegiate lacrosse star Jim Brown’s name is always in the discussion.

Most Americans associate spring with the smell of flowers blooming, the sound of birds chirping, and the sight of leaves unfurling in a setting that gets progressively greener with each passing day. And those things really do happen in southern Maine as well.

Eventually.

The difference is they occur later up here. Retreating snow doesn’t turn green right away, but instead morphs into a muddy brown landscape that, like late- blooming trees and nascent grass, gets a tiny bit more attractive every 24 hours until the time (usually in early to mid-June) comes when Maine’s spring finally becomes a veritable green wonderland.

But then, about a week after the start of for-real spring, our beautiful summer arrives. And that’s when those smug Floridians, Texans, Carolinians and Massho………..er, Massachusettsers who wonder why we live up here all winter will themselves inevitably (and quite justifiably) turn green…..with envy!

Andy Young
April 8, 2023

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