March, the homeliest month, finally nears its end

By Jayson Jacoby March 29, 2013 10:08 am

March, in my view, is the least attractive month.

“Ugly” is a more direct description, of course, and nicely pithy, but I don’t believe it to be a fair description of March or, indeed, of any month.

Each of the 12 has its charms, its moments of beauty.

March just doesn’t have a surfeit of these, most years.

And often as not these interludes are so brief that they leave no lasting impression.

At the moment you glimpse the fetching buttercup, winking from beneath the sagebrush, you are forced to squint and turn away as a squall pelts your cheeks with icy rain and desert grit.

March frequently teases but it rarely seduces.

The month’s greatest flaw is one it shares with failed comedians and out-of-work drummers: bad timing.

March sits firmly astride the intersection of seasons, and as any fence-sitter knows this is an unpleasant perch, with sharp angles poking sensitive parts.

(Although sitting on a fence can be much less painful than climbing over one. I was halfway across a pole fence the other Saturday, out in the pine woods near Phillips Reservoir, when the top rung decided to snap right at the instant it bore my full weight. Which seemed to me a dirty trick. Fortunately a well-placed rock broke my fall. Unfortunately it broke my fall by gouging in my chin a divot very nearly the size of a Tootsie Roll. Pretty close, anyway; I didn’t have any Tootsie Rolls on hand for scale.)

Anyway, March, though it introduces every year to spring, rarely seems committed to the new season.

Snow sometimes lingers til St. Patrick’s day, but by this time the stuff which so delighted us around Christmas, as it delicately draped fir boughs, has all the attraction of a two-day-old waffle.

(And a similarly brittle texture.)

I find the sight of a patch of old dirty snow, hanging on in the shade of an overturned wheelbarrow that hasn’t moved since it hauled its last load of autumn leaves, a pathetic scene. It reminds me of the ephemeral nature of, well, nature.

March is an abnormally drab month, the period when the outdoors palette, usually as rich and varied as a Grateful Dead concert poster, has been leached of its potency.

If the month had a color it would be the dullest variety of that dullest shade: brown.

The dormant grass, the desiccated stalks of perennial flowers, the denuded limbs of the trees — all are a similar dun.

Even the coats of the deer are unusually lacking in luster.

The nice thing about March is that it ends, although rarely as soon as I’d prefer.

Yet in its waning days we sometimes see traces of the more temperate, and colorful, future.

The daffodils and crocus and tulips have emerged from the chilly soil, their stems like green lances thrust against a gray sky.

The snow on the foothills has retreated to the sheltering folds of the north slopes.

The sun, when it deigns to show itself, warms exposed skin in a way that it didn’t just a few weeks ago.

The weather will persist with its treachery, of course, well into May and, if we’re especially cursed, even to the cusp of the solstice.

But April rarely can muster anything like the malevolence that marks March.

And the chances are good that, for at least one dazzling afternoon, April will give us a dizzying yank into summer, send us scrambling to find the barbecue fork and to unearth the lawn chairs from a musty corner of the shed.

And we’ll set up those chairs, ready to welcome our sun-deprived selves.

And to catch the next spring snow flurry.

Jayson Jacoby is editor 
of the Baker City Herald.