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1940s Archive

Coast Calendar

Originally Published May 1947

Comes in west winds and a sky snowing lambs. The empty barn echoes, but the bay bobs with boats. Grandma's rocker and Grandma are put out on the south side-porch. The world greens in a night, and the cows keep their sweet mouths to the ground all day long. There are snowdrifts in deep dingles and among thick spruces, but there are bluets frosting all other ground. Pussy-paws rise in the pasture, and the mullein pushes out woolen new leaves. The heron arrives from Florida and walks the cove by golden moonlight, thoughtfully, as becomes a much-traveled person. Mummie-chubs crowd the pools, and the small boy smells to high heaven of fish in all his breeches' pockets. Marbles and hoops roll out on the earth now. But the big boy gives his young brother his best glass alley and goes in his boat after cunners.

Grandpa hears the first cuckoo and sheds his inner trousers at last. Hepaticas star the hills under leafless trees, the dogtooth violet hangs the damp valleys with golden bells.

The dinner of the month is dandelions. The small boy digs them, going on all fours with the patches on his hindquarters spread to the sun, stabbing them up with his silver case knife. He brings home a pailful of green octopuses and has to spend an hour washing the grit from them in the tub by the well. His mother boils them two solid hours, with a whole section of last year's pig salting and savoring them at the heart of the old ringed iron kettle.

Anemones come out in the woods like drops of winter, and they tremble on the faintest breeze. The fish of the month is cod, the reach boat comes home from sea low with them, but the lobsters keep the man busy at each ebb of the tide. He goes from buoy to buoy, and the young son gets bitten deep by a crab.

The yellow of dandelions burns up like a light on the sky. The girls come home with baskets of wood violets. The young man goes now every evening in his boat to the island of the braids, and Grandma dreams of white and a wedding. The old mare brings a handsome colt, all legs, home from the pasture, and the small boy discovers, by holding a dandelion to her dimpled chin, that the molasses girl likes butter as much as he does. The columbine hangs her red, gold-lined bells on the cliff too high for the children to reach. The flowers come too fast to keep track of. The shadbush lights the fir woods up like snow, the rhodoras fill the evening swamp with purple smoke. Little boys throw their voices back in their throats and yodel, and other small boys, two farms and a bay away, hear them and answer their spring cry.

One night there is an explosion in all the trees, and people wake up in the morning to a world all new leaves. Goodby, goose grease and camphor bags! The small boy flings off his shoes and runs barefoot to school. The bees swarm.

A swarm of bees in May Is worth a load of hay.

The farmer puts on his veiled hat and takes his dip net down, but the bees get into his broad pants, between wind and water, and the little boy laughs to see his father leap out of them and run bare into the bay.

The baby sits up by himself. The mother put salt pork on the big toe the small boy has run the rusty nail into. The winds are forever west. The rising sun turns whole forests into singing birds. Naked Gemini is the sign, and, by Jeminy! the lambs are often twins in the pasture, and the small boy believes he will start off his family with twin boys, though how he will manage with two of himself at once is more than he knows. He brings the girl's books home in the strap with his own books, and he does the kissing that is done now when they are by themselves and hunt for four-leaf clovers on the grass.

Now the plow point goes into earth, the spanned horses come up the fields trampling the bluets, and the plow shines like silver. The small boy walks the rolling furrows with joy, arching his bare toes. His father lets him hold the handles of the plow for a round, and he goes with butts wide, bursting the stitches at his proud stern. His mother will have much work to sew them together for school tomorrow. The lobster traps lie untended, and the crabs devour all the bait, for the farmer is all farmer for the moment and no fisherman. The potatoes are dropped. The big boy scatters the peas. The woodchuck plans a still larger nursery, seeing how near the peas will be to his domicile, and he goes down into his burrow to attend to the increase in his household. The crows congregate on the pines, they can hardly talk together for the water in their beaks as they watch the yellow kernels fall into the dunged hills. They laugh in scorn at the old pants and coat with nothing but two crossed boards in them, masquerading as the farmer; they know he is much thicker through the pants than this. They go to bed hungry on purpose to stoke themselves with swollen sugared corn kernels tomorrow. The farmer comes in smelling of cow dressing and good dirt, and he sits tired in the kitchen by a gingerbread, in peace up to his crinkled eyes. Sweat is a sharp sauce to a good supper.

The light breeze blows the apple blossoms over the dark loam of the garden, for the land is white with apple trees now. Even the deep wild woods light up with the pink fires of wild crab apples.

A man walks through a honeycomb when he walks through a day, and the bees are a far-away thunder to the boy lying lazy, face down in the orchard grass. The swallows skim low, and it will rain in the night; the old man is right, as they find by the clean puddles on the grass at sunrise. The crows are still empty and are in loud conclave in the pines, they cry over the fear they have that the twine string strung up last night over the garden rows is some kind of trap.

The wind veers south and blows the worm into the speckled trout's mouth, just as the adage said. The big boy comes home with a long string of specked rainbows for supper. Rhubarb furnishes the year's first pies from the outside. The shotgun cracks the dawn, and a bold crow is hung with spread wings, head down, in the corn patch. The other crows gather for the funeral service on the pines, the widow screams the loudest.

School lets out for good, and the boys run the woods like a parcel of whooping red Indians. The lilacs wall the house round with white fires and purple.

It is May, new leaves and young blossoms, and the year is ready to burst at all seams.