On Monday, Pete and I took what will probably be the last skate-ski of the season.  Monday bloomed balmy at just over freezing, which was significantly warmer than the single-digit temps we had last weekend.  With daylight savings time in effect, we just had to get out in the warm afternoon sun.  The skiing was good, with a soft top over a solid base and ice in spots.  Now it’s all but gone.  I’ll miss the skiing, but not the snow.

I hadn’t realized how claustrophobic I had been feeling while driving around all this winter until the five-foot piles of snow and ice beside every road disappeared.  I’ve become used to pulling into just about every intersection blindly, because – honestly – it has been just about impossible to see what’s coming because of the heaps of snow.  They did what they could to plow, but the snow had to go somewhere.  They piled it off the side (or just to the side) of every road.  Each little street was narrowed to one lane.  

One of the best things about flying out of the Alaska Range in a small airplane is the steep descent from snow and ice to the balmy air over the tundra.  It smells green and lush, almost tropical, even.  The pilots open the windows so that you can just drink in this rich, colorful air.  This week, the air around Madison smelled brown as snow turned to puddles and puddles turned to mud.  The mud spawned mold and the air tasted of earth.  On Thursday, I took out my bike for the first honest-to-goodness outdoor ride of the season.  Riding by the sewage-treatment plant on the Capital City Loop was a special treat.

We wake each morning to new songbirds.  I heard a mourning dove the other day.  The sky is full of geese again and the occasional pair of cranes.  The crows croak of winter, and nobody listens to them any longer.  

Don’t get me wrong:  They’re projecting snow again next week, but it’s no longer winter.  Every day the ground gets warmer, and the ice will continue to thaw.

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