“You know it’s spring when the Bauwägler start lighting up the fire barrel again.” And so it’s been the past few weeks. Soggy boards dug out from beneath piles of leaves, clippings from the bush we fought back last week, boards saved for building projects that we’ve admitted will never happen, an old crib carted home from the pile of trash on the sidewalk outside of the kindergarten down the street, pallets used to shelter fire wood now beginning to rot: all of it lands in the fire barrel, and we crowd around it when the evening cools back down to almost-winter temperatures. At night wood stoves are grudgingly lit, and rooms warm after only a few small bits of scrap wood have been tossed on top of the kindling.
Life changes drastically as soon as the spring sun begins to shine. In the morning there are no fires to be lit; instead we meet around a wooden table placed to catch the morning sun and drink cup after cup of coffee as people crawl out of wagons one by one rubbing sleep from their eyes on the way to the bathroom wagon, on the way to our table, on their way to the stove to put on another pot.
All at once my whole life has moved outside. The little things that might keep me inside on a sunny day remain undone, and I cook with the door wide open, a black cat coming by to draw figure eights around my feet. Dishes can be done outside, and the rest can be forgotten. For now. For now what is important is the sun, the expulsion of the rot and kipple that have accumulated over the past year, the building up of new garden beds, the plugging up of newly discovered leaks. A frenzy of activity has overtaken us all; hibernation can be set aside, energy flows back into my limbs.
The weekend passed quickly in a blur of vegetables bought at the farmer’s market and a long, slow succession of afternoons spent in the sun, chatting, playing cards, and watching those who had drawn out Friday night’s party into Saturday afternoon as they stumbled between wagons, trains of thought, and bottles of beer.
I wear my rubber boots like slippers as I tramp across the Platz with a wheelbarrow looking for bricks with which to build a wall around one of the new raised vegetable gardens, as I pull a wild carrot out from between thistles and nettles, as I pause to watch a white butterfly—the first of the season—hover over the tulip bed and dip out of sight.