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Taming the March Hare

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a heck of a time concentrating, prioritizing, and just generally getting stuff done this month. It’s not that I’m not doing things, I’m just not getting all of them done.  I can’t wrap my arms around it. 

I’m not blaming it on cabin fever, endless shoveling, Covid fog, menopause, or dementia. I’m blaming it on a world so fraught with troubles that I can’t sleep, which really screws up your mood and cognitive abilities. And blaming it a bit, of course, on the March Hare.

To refresh, as some of you know I’ve written about this leporid before: the expression “mad as a March hare” – “mad” as in British for loony – comes from the bizarre boxing matches, leaps, and chases during the hare’s mating season in March. Other hare facts: they live mostly in the west, cannot interbreed with rabbits with their different number of chromosomes, and are mostly nocturnal – except for in March. 

Hares have never actually been domesticated, so the title of this column refers, in part, to doing the impossible. The impossible, in my case, means trying to keep on top of everything, at work and at home, in March. Sometimes it feels for a brief moment as if things are going smoothly, doesn’t it? I call this “the illusion of control” and it is very satisfying indeed when it occurs. “Is everything under control?” I ask people. “For now!” some answer. Take it and run (or box, or leap) with it while it lasts.

This column’s title also refers to navigating the madness — March itself is crazy. Many months can be, but March is reliably so. In like a lion? And sometimes out like one. Perilous mud hazards that freeze overnight into death grooves? Definitely. Feeling serene, as if all is right with the world? Definitely not. Occasional warm-ish days, the school kids in shorts in strong winds? Yepper. The flip-flopping weather makes us nutty. I’m naming this Transitional Confusion. We’re boggled. Well, the first move in taming a problematic situation is just acknowledging that there is one. Then knowing how to let what’s entirely out of your control run free (or box or leap). 

March is also the peak of skunk mating season, which is not an astonishing visual event like the hare’s, but an olfactory one. Little fellers are OUT. The woodpeckers are at it, too. That’s a real auditory nuisance when they choose standing seam as their instrument of choice. 

Sick of winter, with its brutal holiday winds, soggy muck, and epic snowstorms? I said to my Vermont-born neighbor, “It’s snowing again Tuesday! A heavy, wet snow!” as the plow leaves a wall of cement-grade sludge at the end of our driveway with each pass. My neighbor’s laconic, Vermonty response: “We’ll get there.” 

True. That’s calming. But first: mud season! It’s like mourning. There’s no way around it; you just have to go through it. Major seasonal transitions, these, from snow to mud to gorgeous SPRING. Expect confusion.

How to Manage Transitional Confusion and Generalized Weirdness

•If you don’t feel like doing something that badly needs doing, just do something else that also needs doing, but maybe a hare less. Then you’ll feel like a winner, not a loser, even if not the right kind of winner.

•I asked my dentist why my dental floss smelled so bad (no idea why I huffed it…chalk it up to March). She said, “Because you’re scraping off plaque that is fermenting.” It ferments from bacteria. And if that doesn’t get you to floss, I don’t know what will. Cram flossing into your to-do list?

•Go to the movies. So sane-making. The smell of the popcorn, the trailers promising future fun, the snickering with your seatmate, the movie itself on a big screen in a dark theater. Best of all, perhaps, the Shared Experience in a roomful of strangers—some of whom laugh at things you didn’t catch as funny, some eating noisily, some openly bawling at the ending (guilty as charged … of all three). As we isolate in our homes, streaming and watching TV, the Shared Experience with strangers is lost entirely. But when you leave the theater, you feel refreshed somehow by this magical communal outing.  For Dear Reader that probably means Randolph, which boasts the oldest cinema in Vermont, or maybe Montpelier, Waitsfield, Barre, or Hanover. Rutland’s remains closed, alas. Grab a friend and go! You won’t regret it. 

•Make or see art? Get materials and tools from Brainstorm Art Supplies in Randolph and make something, or just soak up the cool vibe in there. Listen to music. Visit galleries. Cook, before it gets too hot to.

•Go outside, close your eyes, and just listen. You’ll hear crows, jays, geese, insects, weird trillings and whirrings, gruntings, and soon: peepers! Savor the freshness of the chill air.

•Retire sooner at night and read a book – or a feature story in this paper. So you can awaken earlier in top form, fit to endure morning skunk bouquets and Woody Woodpecker’s relentless rattlings.

The word “hare” cries out for a listing of punny salon names, but luckily for Dear Reader I’m out of space. Feel free to submit your favs.

We’ll get there. Good day, and good transition.

Mad as a March Hare, Mad as a Hatter

“Dwarf Hare” by Capt. McGee, 2012, crayon and Sharpie® on paper

The March Hare is not a randomly named character in Alice in Wonderland. “Mad as a March hare” is an English expression referring to the peculiar behavior of hares during mating season when, among other odd activities, disinterested females use their forelegs to box off amorous males. I didn’t know any of this an American child and, further, thought “mad” meant “angry”.  Why was the Mad Hatter angry?
He wasn’t, of course. “Mad” means “nutty” to the English, and “mad as a hatter” comes from when mercury was used to process hat felt. Hat factory workers eventually got mercury poisoning and went “mad.” Those crazy Brits. They have another word for everything.

What’s making me mad is climate change. It’s not just those irrepressible mental images of crumbling, far-away polar ice in Al Gore’s documentary giving me a rash; it’s how at least one season every year is now whacked out. So far: a truncated, nearly snowless winter. That snow is gone. Even the mud is almost gone. Golf courses are opening and people are smacking balls—no doubt to the distracting aroma of liquid manure, as farmers have gotten clearance to spread the vile potion earlier this year.
A friend mentioned a column I wrote 15 years ago about those Vermont homes you see with mass quantities of cut wood outside, inducing jealousy with their display of cozy security and relative wealth. She recalled that column as being about “wood envy”, which is much funnier than what I actually wrote. Our conversational point being that even ordinary people didn’t use up their wood this winter.
What’s been good for home-heaters has been bad for the ski industry. Which affected our tourism industry; no one comes to Vermont for MUD. Our sugaring season was totally screwy, and now Sugar on Snow parties are being conducted with antiquated Sno-Cone® machines retrieved from attics. Hey, we have Sugar on Snow parties in March, snow or no snow. It’s what we do. The show must go on.
For those of us whose preferred season is winter and whose favorite spice is bacon, an early onset spring is a drag. I for one am hardly ready for gardening, golf, or mosquitoes. And I’m definitely not ready for salads. When temps hit the 80s last week (in March?), many were McLovin’ it, scampering about in terry rompers yelling “This is great!” I’m thinking: “This is creepy.”  My ‘hood smelled like a hot sheet of baking septic. Which says something about the “mud” liberally spread chez nous by Irene.
Like some of you, I’m just not ready, man.  I miss my long winter’s naps and digging into a good book under a heavy blanket. Snowshoes in the corner now seem quaint relics better suited as decorative wall hanging purposes than tools of fun.  But you know March: mad as a hatter and out like a lion. After some torrid days, it’s back to that limbo when you’ve got the WINTER box of clothes cozied up next to the SUMMER box until…Mother Nature makes up her bloomin’ mind. It’s an excellent time of year to get sick. And to kill seedlings left on the porch at night by mistake.
Might as well run with it; we can fight the weather no more than we can the passage of time. Pretty soon mother mooses, pregnant with the next round, will be giving their yearlings the hoof and those bewildered sons will roam the Land wreaking havoc.   Mother humans will be handing their babies to the last Republican standing (“Here, take this!” Snap.) With shorts season thrust unexpectedly upon us ahead of schedule, we must quickly trade in our doughy thighs, Ben and Jerry’s “camel’s hump in front”,   and pastry bottoms for firm haunches, ripped abs, and glutes of concrete.
Sounds like a lot of work. Wellll, the alternative is sporting thick swags of mottled goobermeat in our bathing suits two months earlier than usual.  So shelve the bacon and break out your juicers, kayaks, and athletic supports. It’s maddening but we’ll adjust. With felt hat on head and racket in hand and crazy, glowing Village of the Damned eyeballs rolling in our heads, we’ll sally forth in an energetic manner as if this were all a perfectly normal—and good—day.

Ann Aikens

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