Recently most of us here have been feeling as though it’s been raining for weeks, even though it actually has only been two days. But it was one of those relentless, driving, icy rains (is that an oxymoron?) that penetrates deep inside and chills to the bone in a way that snow doesn’t seem to do. This one was a particular affront, too, seeing that it’s almost May. For a while there, my burner was cranking it out almost as powerfully (and expensively!) as in the dead of winter.
And yet–yesterday, late in the afternoon, the sun came out and so did we. I went outside to see what’s going on in the garden. This is the wonderful time of garden hope, everything coming up in neat little packets, hardly any bugs or weeds to speak of (except for a clump of dandelions that emerged and bloomed virtually overnight, and which I subjected to vicious treatment). Everything is green and lush and promising. I sprayed the still-tightly-closed tulip buds with Deer Off (hot chili peppers and other sundry caustic items), hoping to save them from being eaten as soon as they bloom, as in certain other years. I noticed that all the little violet clumps seem to be sprouting white violets this year–some sort of throwback or mutation?
Only the broom (of the delicate lilac/rasberry-colored flowers) seems to have failed to survive the winter, in contrast to the terrible previous year, when we had no snow cover at all and a full third of my garden bit the dust. This year, lack of snow cover was most definitely not an issue; we had continual deep snow from weeks before Christmas until early April.
All the neighbors came out, too, people I’ve barely seen since last fall. Now the children are playing ball, the dogs racing around in delighted circles, and my new next-door-neighbors have finally emerged from their winter hiding to prove to me that they actually live here (I was beginning to have my doubts). Kids who were mere infants in the fall are now toddling around on fat little legs, getting in the way of the ballgame.
It’s time for a dump run, time to take my raked leaves and twigs and debris and put them in the large pile at the dump, to be made into compost that is then sold to make revenue (I live in a very environmentally correct town). On the way to the dump, I drive along a road which parallels the ocean. This is one of the perks of living here; the ocean is never very far away. There’s a point I always pass that features a rocky cove. Usually it’s fairly calm, but today it’s stirred up as much as I’ve ever seen it. Apprarently the storm that has finally passed through is still having its way with the ocean.
There are huge crashing waves near the rocks; that’s to be expected when the sea is churning like this. Way out, near a distant lighthouse and some islands, is a long white line that I can’t recall having seen before. It’s a huge area of breaking wave, most likely indicating where the ocean is more shallow, near some small islands. Then I see another line, and another.
I notice some small dark forms among the closer waves. They look like dolphins or sea lions. Harbor seals actually do live near here, and I’ve sighted them, but never in this area. But then I notice the surfboards; harbor seals do not carry surfboards, to the best of my knowledge. So these are surfers, about twenty-five of them, clad in wet suits and waiting for the next big one to ride in. It’s so cold out that I’m wearing my winter jacket; it can’t be above fifty, maybe even in the forties. I cannot even imagine how cold it feels out there, even with the wet suits.
I wouldn’t have thought there were that many surfers living within a hundred miles of me. And yet here they are; the call went out, and they answered it. How do they find out that the surf’s up?
Well, when in doubt, go online, I always say. When I got home, I had no sooner typed “new england surfers” into Google than I discovered this site, called “New England surfer,” and guaranteed to meet all the needs of said rara avis. Although, as it turns out, not so rara an avis, after all. Here is where they go for the forecasts that tell them when the surfing will be good. It also contains a surprisingly active discussion board, lists of best surfing areas, and all sorts of technical discussion of the finer points of surfboards and other equipment.
So, there are indeed New England surfers. Quite a few of them, it seems–a hardy and unique crowd. This spring surfing in weather that’s above freezing is apparently a rare treat, because most of these guys (and they are mostly men, by the way) find that the best New England surfing comes–you guessed it–in winter! That’s when the noreasters that tend to bring the big waves to these parts hit. This spring storm is unusual and wonderful, and that’s why the unaccustomed (and, to me, unprecedented) crowd.
For anyone who cares to explore this world, I offer the following: an article entitled “Crazy New England Surfers,” another one called “The Endless Winter” (the title a nice little riff on the popular surfing documentary “The Endless Summer”), and this, the piece de resistance, a video of a New Englander surfing in a snowstorm.
I’ll take gardening, myself.