Just about this time every year it happens. Pretty much everyone gets it and it makes life rather uncomfortable for a few days…a few very long days. Husbands and wives feel the tension, school kids are irritable and workers feel the lackluster.
Ahh, you probably thought I was talking about the January thaw or spring fever. Not yet, it is just a bit too late for one and too early for the other. I'm talking about what comes after the thaw and before the fever: THE ITCH. It's the few warm, bright, sunny days that roll around sometime later in February or early March.
These days start with bright and crispy mornings that melt into warm, sun-kissed afternoons. You can shed all those bulky winter clothes for short sleeves. The sunshine feels so good that you just have to get outside. Here lies the problem.
The first day or two of this weather is great because there is always something to catch up on. There has never been a year yet when there weren't limbs to be picked up out of the yard. Sometimes you can get a jump on spring cleaning chores like washing windows. Farmers make sure all of their equipment is ready for spring planting, lawn equipment is checked over to make sure it is ready for the season and garden debris is cleaned up.
But after these chores are done, the weather is still nice and there is nothing that can be done outside. It is too early to plant anything because you know that cold weather will return and fields and gardens are too wet to get into. Now, you know what I mean by "the itch."
Farmers want to get in the fields, but they know it's not time. Gardeners want to get an early start but it is not time. You want to haul all that lawn furniture back outside but you know it is not time. You definitely don't want to be inside but there is really nothing to do outside. This is the breeding ground for grumpiness. Most everyone has a little shorter fuse than normal and folks seem to get irritated for no reason at all.
For those of us who have a bit of a stubborn streak, like me, "the itch" makes our life even tougher. Last year when these days rolled around I cleaned out my flower gardens. Yep, I raked all the dead leaves off that I was using as mulch and thought I would get a jump on my cleanup. They looked so nice when I got done and I had the job out of the way for when spring really hit and there would be more important tasks at hand. The flowers also looked so bad when frosts and freezing temperatures returned and they were all exposed. This year the temptation to do the same thing tugged at me but, so far, I have resisted.
The treadmill is my saving grace when the winds are howling outside and temperatures plummet, but on warm days I can't wait to walk outside. I love walking around the farm and by the woods. With all the snowmelt and recent rains, the intelligent part of me knew that it would be a field of mud but "the itch" still grabbed me anyway. After all, if I stayed by the fence rows and did not venture out into the middle of the field, I should be just fine. Those are famous last words as a particularly wet spot sucked my boots down to the ankles.
I love photographing nature. I have so many unique photos of Mother Nature at her finest in all four seasons. I dare say that not one of them was ever taken during "the itch," I know better. It is the end of February and beginning of March and it is Mother Nature without her makeup. It is ugly out there. The trees are bare, there is no green to be seen, the world is brown and gray. But I drag my camera with me anyway and, not to be defeated another year, I take a few shots. Now, not only do I have mud-laden boots to deal with, but also I have my camera to deal with and hope that it will not fall into the mud when I eventually will. This all for the sake of a few photos that I will, invariably, delete once I am inside. And the really sad part is that I will do it all again next year.
The only thing that is my saving grace is that I see many of the farmers going for a little drive, just to check out their neighbors and see if they are doing anything in the fields. Oh, they all know in their hearts that it is still too wet and too early, but just in case their neighbors are doing something they have to check it out. At least they are smart enough to check it out in a vehicle.
It doesn't help through these few days either when you see the first couple of motorcycles whizzing by and boats on trailers headed for the lake. Last week ice fishermen barely got their ice shanties off the frozen lakes and this week boats are headed for the open water. My bet is that next week I will see boats going back in the opposite direction, passing the ice shanties on their way!
No wonder we all get growly. "The itch" isn't spring, it's not winter, it's sort of like the nothing time. We are confused between what we want it to be and what we know isn't quite yet. It's just another facet of human nature and we just plain don't know how to deal with it. This is so frustrating because, hard as we try, we can't fool Mother Nature even though she can fool us.
Most of you may call this whole phenomenon cabin fever. I call this time of year "the itch."
Photo by Getty Images/goikmitl