1940s Archive

Coast Calendar

Originally Published March 1947

Comes in with vast winds. The oaks roar loud on the bay, the elmssing high over the house all the night, the sun rolls out of the ocean like a golden oxcart wheel, and March comes in like the lion. A blizzard twilights the noon, but the clouds rip apart, and the arms of the climbing young sun come down with long light and handle the blinding jewels of the ice-bound islands on the sea.

The dish of the month is pigs' feet with dumplings. The women bring in the pig-trotters stiff with winter from the woodshed, they wash them well, sousing them in cold water to get out the frost. Then they cook them over a slow fire in the big iron kettle, till the feet grow tender, and they salt them to taste. When the meat is ready to fall from the bones, they throw into the kettle sliced onions and a clove of garlic. While these are seething, the women-folk run up the dumplings, taking two cups of sifted flour and a teaspoon of salt and pouring in water till the dough can be rolled out flat on the breadboard with the rolling pin. They cut the cloth of dough into rectangles that shrink away from the knife, douse the rectangles into the soup one by one, and keep them apart as they cook for fifteen minutes. Or if there is extra hard work for the menfolk outside, the women make dough-devils, instead of dumplings, and fill the pot to the cover with the exploding snowballs of flour.

Men watch the line of dark blue beyond the headlands like so many fish hawks. It is wider this morning than it was last evening. The wind shakes the pinewoods into a high dust of ground diamonds. The lobster traps pile up like ribbed martyrs in the snow. Nights are bleatings of new lambs, and under clouds of stars a man brings into lamp-light a weak thing with a thin cry. The little girls waken and see the new woolen baby nursing at the bottle on the hearth. They baby him in their arms, and he runs about the house on legs much too large for him.

The reach-boat has grown up over the windows in the tool shed, and the man talks to the boy through a wall of curved pine. Ledges towards the sun are showing like ribs, pussy willows star the twilight. The henhouse shakes with song, it rains eggs, and the roosters are in full cry with bronze, bristling necks. The price of eggs goes to the bottom, the wife's pitcher gets no new silver, and the men get eggs morning and noon and night. The snow of the year smokes with hen-droppings. The world rises two white feet in a night, and the big boy carries the small boy pig-a-back through the drifts.

Aries has his head down and butts against the world, and his fleece tufts with white every fence and stone wall. The young man walks ten snowy miles to say ten words to a girl three islands away. He risks his life on thinned ice, but counts it worth the risk. A snowdrift goes down a foot under one day of the sun. The hams are getting down to the small ends, and the smokehouse is empty racks and rafters. But there is a smell of ocean and the south in the air. The boys and girls go to school over the bay ice but carry their long poles by the middle now in case the footing should give way.

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