Welcome to the April 2013 edition of Jud’s New England Journal, the rather curious monthly musings of Judson Hale,
the Editor-in-Chief of Yankee Magazine, published since 1935 in Dublin, NH.
My Favorite April Moments
After a long winter, there’s nothing more welcome than the first sighting of a suddenly-open lake. But I recently saw something equally thrilling in downtown Boston…
All of us have our favorite signs of spring–spotting a robin among snow patches on the lawn, for instance. Whatever. But for me, it’s always been ice-out.
Each year, during the latter part of March and April, the ice, now deserted of all human activity, has been turning dark gray, almost black. Not the shiny, crystal-clear black ice of December and January. This is the dull, rotting gray-black ice of April. Coves and shorelines become free of it, but the main area of the big lakes remain locked in this gray mass–interminably.
Then, one late April or early May morning (later in the north country, earlier in the south), someone who has passed the lake on the way to work will announce, “the ice went out last night.”
The office ice-out pool, in which bets were placed on the precise date and time, has a winner and I, for one, make a special point of driving over to the lake sometime that day to see for myself, firsthand. Like the marvel of autumn foliage, the first sight of open water in a big lake each spring is thrilling. The wind that helped bring about the ice’s disappearance is often whipping up whitecaps and I stand there on the shore amazed– always amazed–that a landscape so entrenched for so many months could change so dramatically in a matter of a few hours.
If the day is calm and ice-out coincides with or follows “opening day,” sections of the shore will be lined with fishermen and the lake will be full of small boats. In any case, the annual ritual of personally looking at the ice-free lake is my own favorite signal to myself that I’ve survived the winter and another New England spring has arrived.
Several years ago, I was in Boston the day the ice went out of many of New Hampshire’s big lakes and so I figured my own spring would necessarily have to be delayed.
However, thanks to extremely fortunate timing, I was witness that year to a uniquely Boston seasonal milestone. It happened as I was walking along Commonwealth Avenue. Suddenly I was aware that some of the people on both sides of the avenue were beginning to clap and cheer and smile at one another. There, moving slowly in traffic down toward the Public Garden, was a huge trailer truck. On board were six swan boats.
The swan boats are stored all winter under cover and right around Patriots’ Day, April 19 (that’s the real Patriots’ Day), they’re transported back to the Lagoon–the little lake in the Public Garden–for another season. You have to be in the right place and the right time to see the swan boats on this annual overland voyage, but if you are, well for me it’s about as good as ice-out.