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MARTHA SEZ: ‘At least we were scratching our bug bites without mittens’

It’s spring in the Adirondacks. In other parts of New York, for example Long Island and Albany and even Essex, places that are not exactly the tropics by any stretch of the imagination, spring is in full swing.

In Keene Valley, signs of spring are more subtle. A person has to search harder.

Right now, I can see a robin and a daffodil in my yard. Some kind of partially frozen precipitation, approximately the consistency of a Slush Puppie, is falling on them both.

It did get warm here for several days in a row, but the old timers could have told you that wasn’t going to last. My sister sent me a portable greenhouse with doors and windows that can be zipped up in case of cold weather or opportunistic deer. Daffodils and primroses are blooming away in there, but you can’t see them unless you unzip a window.

It was April 15, tax day, 1991, when my daughter, Molly, and I hit town. We had just blown in from Boca Grande, Florida, where my godmother lived, and it seemed strange to be scratching mosquito bites with woollen mittens on.

Sometimes we would drive out of town, to Essex or Albany, and we’d see butterflies and tulips and blue skies. On one side of the “Welcome to the Adirondack Park” sign it would be about 70 degrees and sunny, and on the other side the pine trees would be all weighed down with snow and the wind would be howling.

That first mud season in the Adirondacks made me think of David Lynch’s eerie television series, “Twin Peaks.”

Then spring came. The grass turned green and there were carpets here and there of little bluet flowers. Frogs were loud, and so were the rivers and creeks. Everywhere birds were on the wing. Blackflies too. I was shocked that such a tiny insect could deliver a bite that sent rivulets of blood trickling down the nape of my daughter’s neck and gave me a black eye. At least we were scratching our bug bites without mittens.

Soon, we saw field technicians wading through the waterways dispensing bacillus thuringiensis Israelensis (BTI) to control the little monsters while still in the larval stage. It is a natural pesticide effective against blackflies and mosquitoes, the only pesticide sanctioned by the New York Department of Conservation.

Every year after that, spring has come in pretty much the same way, although we have warmed from climate zone 3 to climate zone 4 over the years. Always, after an Adirondack winter, it is hard to believe that spring will ever come, the robin and the daffodil notwithstanding.

When the wind is blowing and sleety rain is pouring–great fertilizer, say the old timers–it’s good to stay in and watch good shows on whatever electronic media you prefer or happen to own. I have noticed, while binge-watching “Midsomer Murders,” a BBC television series, that police are constantly apprehending criminals–dangerous criminals, the kind who stab or bludgeon or poison or set fire to other people–by running after them and then bringing them down by leaping onto their backs.

Watching “Raising Arizona,” which is of course an American movie, policing methods are very different. Reformed (pretty much) criminal H. I. McDunnough, played by Nicolas Cage, and Ed, played by Holly Hunter, kidnap a baby quintuplet, in order to start a family of their own. When H. I. steals a package of Huggies Diapers from a supermarket, police chase him down the highway, sirens screaming, one officer sitting in the passenger window of the cop car shooting at him with an automatic rifle. I found it a hilarious satire on American policing, particularly after just watching British “Coppers” chasing down murder suspects on foot.

Spring is also known to inspire housecleaning. There is something about the way spring sunlight comes through the windows that highlights every cat hair, every mote of dust, whether on the furniture, on your clothing or floating in the air.

Now that it’s spring cleaning time again, my neighbor Dee-Ann has been coming over almost every day, complaining about her vacuum cleaner.

Dee-Ann loves vacuuming, and when her machine gets clogged or overheated, she lugs it over for me to look at. It’s like she has Munchausen-by-proxy with her Bissell. The funny thing is, I can always get it working again,even though I am not mechanically minded, and this gives me a false sense of competence.

Have a good week.

(Martha Allen lives in Keene Valley. She has been writing for the Lake Placid News for more than 20 years.)