This past week, I watched the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland; I’ve since added Lewis Carroll’s original book to my “read-soon” list. I don’t know about the book yet, but I noticed a reference to “marchness” in the movie, meaning – as I understood it – something roughly like gumption, bravery, courage that verges enough on madness to be really effective. “You’ve lost your marchness, Alice!” the mad hatter sadly informs the girl early on in the film; later, determined to go to drastic lengths to rescue the hatter from the diabolical Red Queen, Alice retorts, “Lost my marchness, have I?!” Well I’m still figuring out what exactly the concept of marchness means in Wonderland…but I can give you a bit more detailed sketch of what marchness means in the North Country – or at least what it looks like.
In the North County, marchness means mud…usually. And it does this year, too! But this year, it has also meant continued snow, freezing rain, ice…ice and mud switching off and on with each other, noncommittal puddles masquerading as muddy liquid by day and reverting back to their dirty crusts of ice for bed sheets at night. Schools were delayed again this morning, in one of the very last days of March, due to wintry weather conditions. But when I look out my window these days, raindrops spatter the panes more often than white flakes, and looking through the watery glass, I can see persistent muddy patches in the fields, and I have hope. (Never mind the fact that on March 20th, the first official day of spring was ushered in by copious amount of fluffy flakes, swirling furiously.)
There’s another wonderful March sight I can espy from my window, and it means sweetness as well as marchness, for it is the classic silver galvanized buckets attached to each maple tree, waiting faithfully to collect the sap that has begun to run so that soon we can have fresh maple syrup. The buckets I can see from my window are actually not on our land and not ours, but I know that if I run to the windows on the west side of our house, I will see the same buckets on our own trees that my dad tapped about midway through the month.
Marchness in this particular section of the North Country also means birthdays to us: one sister and two dear friends celebrated/are celebrating their “name-days” this month. And while it is by no means specific to the North Country, I think a post on March and marchness in general would be incomplete w/o at least a perfunctory nod to March Madness…even though the Syracuse men’s team didn’t do so hot. (Widespread support of the Syracuse Orange is a feature more specific to Northern New York.)
I think that N.C. marchness – that strange bird – must also look a bit like the heron with its crazily-folded neck that I saw in the woods not four days ago.
But above all, perhaps, marchness here this year means county-wide unanimous groans and communal hopes – yearnings – for spring (SPRING!) to please, please, finally be right around the corner…because winter is lovely here, but this one in particular has been especially long…