As I stood at the kitchen window that faced south toward the gravel parking lot of our canoe livery and fly shop, I felt the breeze drift in. I stopped what I was doing, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. The freshness of the air was glorious.
Even though my two younger children were at the dining room table waiting for lunch, I made myself stand there and embrace the warm air. It only takes one Up North winter to learn that you do not take a moment like this for granted. After a few slow, deep breaths, I could sense it. Pine. There is nothing more invigorating than the scent of fresh pine as it lingers in the air. It’s one of the reasons I love living Up North.
Living in northern Michigan requires a kind of hardiness of spirit because the winters, while breathtaking in their beauty, are something to endure. To appreciate what it is like to travel the long journey of the winter months and come out on the other side to spring, you have to experience it fully by living in the Northwoods. It is not enough to come up for a weekend or two. You have to feel the transformation of the air, as crisp fall days slowly turn cold and then bitter. You have to witness the snow that falls before Thanksgiving, continues until early April, and is punctuated by hearty snowstorms. By the time March arrives your bones ache for spring, and any sign no matter how small gives you hope that warm, leisurely days on the river will soon arrive.
Those earliest signs of spring can be elusive. Even when the snowdrifts are still so deep that you sink to your waist, the air can carry the subtle but unmistakable warm scent of spring. It is a sign that the pines and the hardwoods are stirring as they approach the end of a long hibernation. I was snowshoeing through the path in the wood at the back of our property when I got my first trace of the softening of the trees. I maneuvered my snowshoes over and around a fallen tree, when the wind whistled through the needles and caught me full in the face. I stopped, put my face in the air, and inhaled deeply the distinct and unmistakable warmth and freshness that signaled spring. It was at that moment that I knew the days would be different. My mood and my attentions shifted to spring.