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In Our Own Backyard...What a difference a day makes!

Last year, we heard the first loon fly over exactly one week from today, though the lake was still thick with ice. He didn’t make another appearance for another three weeks. But by this time two years ago, he was already here.

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There’s something so satisfying about tracking life’s events from year to year. It helps mark the passing of the seasons and the changes from one year to the next.

Each Christmas my mom gives me a new calendar. It’s the same calendar she’s given me for as many years as I can remember, and I’ve kept every one of them. It’s just a plain, white calendar with no distractions — no glitzy photos or witting sayings — just a big, white square for each date, with plenty of room to write things in.

Every year when I get the new calendar, I sit down and transfer all of the important dates from the old calendar to the new — the birthdays, the anniversaries, the months we’re due for our annual physicals and dental exams.

It’s fun to look over the years past and recall all of the things that were happening in our lives — the George Strait concert in February, our son’s wedding in April, the houseboat trip in July, camping over Labor Day, the church craft fair in October, the University of Minnesota/Penn State football game in November.

And then there are the more mundane occurrences, like the cat’s appointment at the vet to have her rabies booster, or the visit from the repairman to fix our ailing dryer, or the day our taxes are due.  

I think my favorite entries on my calendars, however, have to be the ones that mark all of the “firsts.” Two years ago, in 2012, the ice in our lake went out on March 24, followed the very next week by the appearance of the first loon out on the water. Somehow, I always seem to mark such joyous occurrences with exclamation points – “Ice out!” “Loon!” I was reminded by a calendar entry from earlier in the month (also marked with an exclamation point) that the temperature soared up to 75 degrees one day in March, and I understood why spring came so early that year.

In contrast, as I looked at last year’s calendar, nothing remotely spring-like started to happen until the middle of May. “Ice out!” read the entry on May 12, followed by “First Loons!” two days later, and “First Hummingbird!” and “Rhubarb Up!” five days later. It seems though spring came late last year, when it started to blossom it all happened in the period of one week.

This year, April remains a blank mark on the calendar (with the exception of our son’s wedding anniversary and Easter). The only “first” we’ve experienced is the first skunk of the year — and that’s not something I feel particularly moved to make note of!

Lately, however, it has actually seemed that the advent of spring just might be possible. A few days of warm weather has shrunk the snowdrifts and thinned out the ice on the lake. Canada geese have begun flying overhead making their wild calls, and I awake most mornings to the sound of chickadees singing their spring songs and the crows cawing their ardor to their respective mates. The first blush of dawn is already on the horizon by 6 a.m., and most days I am able to drive home from work in daylight.

“Could this be it?” I wondered. “Could spring finally be on its way for real?”

I actually found myself pondering how far our loon pair has made it on their trip north from the Gulf of Mexico, and whether the ice on our lake will be out by the time they get here….

But then, we awoke Wednesday morning to the chilling reality of it all.

Determinedly, I picked up my pen, marched over to where my calendar hangs on the inside of the closet door and wrote “Last blizzard!”