It’s been the kind of weather week the poet Robert Frost captures in Two Tramps in Mud Time, the kind of week that brings bone chilling winds off the shoulder of Ragged Mountain followed by pockets of sunshine that carry the promise of jacketless days. Grass looks almost mower ready, then snow swirls and grabs hold of Carr Field as it did earlier this week. And now I am informed by the Weather Channel that tomorrow will be a gorgeous day with temperatures near 60, only to be followed by 3-5” of snow Sunday night. It’s been a this and that, two tramps week for sure.
Sometimes I let myself be defined by one swing or the other. We all do. The weather toggles back and forth: the daffodils pop, the magnolia by Maxwell Savage blooms and it’s all lightness, then the snap of cold and freezing night returns with winter’s sting and it’s all hats and gloves again. I live winter one day, spring the next. I let myself completely ping-pong from one seasonal mindset to the next. What I should do is just embrace the whole messy wonderful ride of April and not get too caught up in the moment.
I thought about Two Tramps In Mud Time after visiting Jack Bronnenberg, who has been working Proctor’s woodlands for years. Ours is an easy relationship, and the time I spend with Jack always teaches me something. It was no different this week. On Tuesday when we walked the land, his chocolate lab Timber tacked back and forth ahead of us. Jack talked about the thinning he had done out at the site by Elbow Pond and the gravel pit he was clearing out for a future chipping site. He showed me a root burl, pointed to a spot where lightning had ripped a clean stripe down a white pine. Somewhere in there Timber flushed a turkey which thundered up into the treetops. A few minutes later the dog trotted up and gently set down a turkey egg, so we back-tracked to the nest and gently replaced the mottled, sepia colored egg next to four others. Would the hen reject it and the others now that the lab’s scent and our scent was all around? Jack wasn’t sure. As we continued our tour, I was struck by how much joy and connection and pride he has for the work he does on the land. It’s not just a job, but a joy. I thought of Frost: Only where love and need are one, And the work is play for mortal stakes, Is the deed ever really done For Heaven and the future’s stake.
The weather, Robert Frost, time with Jack in the woods - all have been a reminder that we do not have to be so defined by this or that. It’s good to remember this in these turbulent times. We do not have to be wholly defined by the pandemic weather patterns of worry and illness, nor can we be wholly defined by those sunny times when we escape and feel unfettered and free. Somewhere in this new reality is a balance. To each of us falls the responsibility of finding it as we navigate the messy whole of these days.
Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Proctor Academy Head of School