March, that time of year when the clouds begin to pull away from each other and dot the sky with blue light. When life once again shows itself in the footprints of deer and rabbit trails through the meadow, when sparrows hop about beneath the bird feeder and chatter away about the best seeds. Then, only then, you begin to feel the first tickling wonderment of the seasons once again changing and behold the clear, starry blanket overhead each night.
Imagine the deepest gray color you've ever seen, then paint wispy clouds over a yellow sunset that same gray. Color the yellow street lights up against the gray, while a fading blue sky dissolves into night around them. Draw a few lonely buildings on a hill, glowing in the lamp light amidst a prairie filled with snow. If you can imagine that, then you'll have tonight.
A March evening.
A mad, beautiful, glorious, exuberant evening where nothing can be heard on the prairie except you as you breath, in and out, in and out. And yet at the same time everything can be heard, like the intensity of basketball game when the teams are tied and there are ten seconds left in the fourth quarter, the noise of the voices all melded together pushing at your ears, until the first coyote breaks the silent noise. You hold in your last breath and the snow crunches beneath your boots as you stop to wonder if you heard something real or . . .
A sharp yip-yip-yip followed by piercing barks and shrill cries bubbling up from behind the first. There's one soprano, yipping a different tune above the others, harmonizing with the shrieks enough to make the your heart freeze in terror a moment before you remember they're even more frightened of you. You smile at yourself.
But then they stop. You stare at the hill from over which their voices rang, but lose certainty of the direction when their song echoes across the stillness. You follow one echo, turning as it swerves past you, then you catch the tail end of another and whirl around to face it. But it vanishes, lost in the evening, in the yellow sunset and the yellow street lights of town.
You let out the breath and race back for the squares of yellow light glowing from home. But you trip through the snow, your hands stuffed deep in your coat pockets because it's cold. You slip across the freezing puddles and glance over your shoulder, then over your other shoulder, gray and white coyotes chasing after your imagination, brushing over the top of the snow as if their paws had wings. You stop and walk backwards, knowing they're out there somewhere, not wanting them to spring upon your back when you're not looking. One more moment and they'll plunge down the hill after you. You've long forgotten they're more frightened of you.
You reach the gate and swing it closed behind you with a clank. Now you're safe, safe from the mad Marchness of the evening. The yellow squares of light sing to you and the shadows of the ones you love pass behind the windows. Dinner is on the stove, Mama's famous chicken soup, and you can smell the biscuits, thinking of that peach jam up in the cupboard. You'll ask Mama if you can open a jar, it's a March evening after all. You're home. The coyotes have long since
ceased their chase, even though they're more afraid of you.
The March evening is yours.