March Comes in Like a . . . Goat

By , March 1, 2010

March is upon us, and, as I have every year since I can remember, I’m analyzing the weather to judge whether the month is coming in like a lion or a lamb. And, as has happened almost every year I can remember since returning to Alaska, it’s a complicated question.

Unfortunately for me, although I was born in Alaska, my earliest memories were formed in central Washington state. I say “unfortunately,” because that region seemed to be one of the rare places in the northern hemisphere where all of the classic generalizations about climate and weather seemed to hold true: autumn meant frost and brilliant leaf displays, winter snows came after Thanksgiving and lasted well past a white Christmas, March winds and April showers did, in fact, bring May flowers. Life lived up to expectation, which totally ruined me for a return to Alaska and its more complicated, less predictable weather.

So, here I am, staring at the sky on March 1st, asking, “is this a lion or a lamb?” Oddly, a small voice in my head is saying, “it’s a goat.”

And why not? In my experience, goats are mysterious, unpredictable creatures. They’re not exactly fierce—but they’re not wholly docile, either. I remember the goat my uncle’s family had for years. They tethered it on a broad back lawn, secured to a strong metal stake driven deep in the ground. We children knew not to step into the perfectly defined, closely cropped circle of the goat’s territory. It might respond to such an invasion by acquiescing to a gentle head pat or ear scratch, or it might become violent, or, worse, eat our clothes! This enigma stared placidly at us, inscrutable, unconcerned whether we could read its thoughts or not, disinterested in our welfare.

Alaskan weather is much the same, I find. It is what it is, and doesn’t give a fig for you or what you think of it. Can’t quite decide whether it’s wild enough to be leonine? That’s not the weather’s problem. It seems mild right now, but are you ready to venture out in a small boat today? Do you trust it to stay placid? Isn’t there a good possibility the weather will turn on you unexpectedly?

So perhaps I’ll just settle for that. Forget the lion and lamb question. March is coming in like a goat, and it’ll go out like a goat. Now that that’s solved, maybe I’ll go get something done. But I think I’ll stay off the water.

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