This has been the winter of ice. The season hasn’t given us much snow. However, it has given us record cold temperatures for early January and has produced an inordinate amount of freezing rain and ice.

Walking out to the end of my driveway with my supposedly invincible snow shovel It was bought from BJ’s and was made in Viet Nam by people who have never even heard of cold, I attempted to clear out ice left from the previous night.

Chipping away I felt a give that had little to do with the ice and everything to do with the shovel. The shaft then shattered to never resemble a shovel again. Straightening out my back before I threw the shovel into a snowdrift, I felt the subtle scent of spring.

It was a clear cold smell that was different from the frigid pure smell of the ongoing winter. It actually had an aroma to it that reminded me of something more subtle than that of the smells of winter. In other words, it actually smelt like something nice.

Walking defeated back to my garage, I couldn’t help but wonder what I could smell. I turned in my driveway and observed the trees in my front yard that I had planted over a quarter of a century ago.

Back then, when I purchased my home, I had little money to purchase anything that would make my lot more livable. In fact, I remember not hearing any birds singing because there were literally no trees. My colleague, at the time, allowed me to go to his lot and pull saplings out of his lot.

I planted them with the understanding they would never stand a chance to survive the move. I didn’t even know what they were. Now I stand looking up at a skeleton of a tree that has a height of at least 40 feet.

The odd smell couldn’t be coming from my trees because they had little to nothing to produce any fragrances. After all they were simply fingers reaching up into the gray of our February skies. So, where were these scents coming from?

Walking to my garage that was filled with my deck furniture, hoping to survive another summer of barbeques and friends, I noticed something green in front of my house. At first I thought it was some trash that had blown from someone else’s home.

Looking closer I saw what looked like a shoot breaking through the frozen tundra, in order to check out if it was time to begin again. Was it producing a fragrance that would define the coming spring? It was too small and destined to fall back into the ground because it was much too early.

I now had a choice. I could either give up on the smell or conclude the scent must have come from my memory of the past season change. Before I left the outside I decided to look up. Above me was a single gull circling over my house. Could this be the source of the scent?

How could I possibly smell any part of anything that flew so high in the sky. Maybe it was also looking for the source of a scent that summoned in the beginning of the end to our winter.

Looking down I noticed a red object in my peripheral vision. It was stuck deep in my burning bush that was no longer burning. All that was left was a web of brown sticks hoping to hide its shame when Spring finally decided to let it do so.

Focusing in on the bush, there was a red sphere that had no right to be there. It was bright and seemed to be floating inside. Walking over to inspect what it could possibly be I laughed to myself because it was a small play ball. One of my grand children must have thrown it and given up trying to find it.

The ball floated inside, knowing that during the summer months no one could see it and when winter came no one would look for it. Memories flew into my mind of fun times and hopes of future times.

Winter is a difficult time to survive on the coast of Maine. The reason we live here is the knowledge that nothing stays the same and everything changes. Even though I couldn’t find the source of the scent I knew it is heralding-in a new season.
The End
The subtle scents of spring by Jim Fabiano
Jim Fabiano is a retired teacher and writer living in York, Maine
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