The Mast-Head: Lingering Winter

What was odd about the frigid weeks was that our household did few or none of the normal winter things children enjoy

    This week the South Fork experienced an abrupt return to bitter weather of the sort that characterized the winter just ended. A sharp downturn in the thermometer was often accompanied by snow and wind, followed by a brief warm-up, then cold again.

    What was odd about the frigid weeks was that our household did few or none of the normal winter things children enjoy. We went sledding but once, pond skating not at all. The kids’ schedules certainly had something to do with this, but then, too, it often was just too brutal outside to interest them in much more than bundling up in blankets on weekends to watch TV.

    As for myself, I don’t mind winter, but I, too, did not find it possible to take advantage of it. The single solitary time I managed to get the ice boat out of the barn and set it up at Mecox, the wind did not cooperate, and I spent the day standing around answering sightseers’ questions. I didn’t dig at my usual cold-month clam flat, and I put away my surfboard and wetsuits in November and did not think about them again until just this week.

    When there wasn’t a hard freeze, I managed to get a jump on a couple of spring chores, edging the brick path in the yard and trimming overhanging limbs in the driveway. Not eager to have to rebuild the stairs leading to the beach yet again after winter’s storms, I removed the lower steps to allow the bay to race underneath unimpeded. They will have to go back shortly, but that is a minor matter.

    I wonder, too, about the outdoor creatures. Will there be fewer ticks, thanks to the cold? And what about all the birds that have already returned from the South and seem ready to breed. How do they manage when it suddenly falls below freezing?

    Over on Deerfield Road in Water Mill I saw my first osprey about a week ago on a utility pole’s crossbars. It had evidently been flying back and forth for some time, carrying sticks with which it hoped to build a nest. Late afternoon traffic repeatedly disturbed it, and each time it flew away, the wind swept the most recent stick or twig onto the ground.

    When I checked back later, at around dusk, the osprey was still at it, forgetting about winter and getting ready for spring.