Not unlike the sparrows that return annually to the Mission of San Juan Capistrano over near the left coast, doves are once again setting up shop in the northeast foothills of the Heber Valley.
Not the tranquil "mourning doves" that once blanketed this relatively idyllic space but the more assertive "white-winged dove" that, over recent years, has been expanding its habitat into Northern Utah and beyond. There's one of them plump, sassy pigeons now, sitting atop the stone and mortar encasement that is the fireplace chimney.
You hear them before you see them, they being quite easily identified by their distinctive song. Mourning doves -- I think I heard only one all last year -- sound like a John Coltrane ballad, where the white-winged variant calls to mind the more-frenetic Ornette Coleman.
But, any harbinger in a storm, I say! That's what this is all about. It's reached the point where I'd rather listen to a birdsong that ruffles my feathers than hear none at all. Give me even the smallest, most nuanced, hint that that speck at the end of the tunnel is springtime and I'm immediately flooded with endorphins.
There was a time when I would wait until St. Patrick's Day and our annual gang-ski before I started jonesin' heavily for Springtime in the Rockies. It being only a few days away from the Vernal Equinox and all, it never seemed as if I were rushing the natural order of things.
Then I'd find myself nudging it, calendar-wise, more toward the Daytona 500 and Major League Baseball spring training. I've always treated the day when pitchers and catchers report as a holy day of obligation. And now, what do I hear on the news but that MLB is lobbying to have "Opening Day" declared a national holiday. Something's afoot! It's not just me!
As we, figuratively, speak, I'm listening to an Oakland A's spring training audio feed from Phoenix as they methodically dismantle my Dodgers, or, I should say, a bunch of kids I've never heard of wearing Dodger Blue. That's OK!
Even without Vin Scully at the microphone. Even with our "ace" Clayton Kershaw not recording an out in the A's half of the 3rd inning and raising his springtime ERA to 18.00. Even with four errors! No worries! I just might break out some peanuts and Cracker Jacks, maybe even a beer. It's a precursor of spring. That's all that matters!
Admittedly, many of my mileposts are sports driven. I'm sure it won't be too long before I begin donning shorts and Aloha shirts for Super Bowl Sunday. And even though the golf season is, what, eleven months long, the thoughts of Magnolia Lane and the Masters Golf Tournament are, once again, placing me in rather decent psychological space.
I no longer even consider "mud season" to be a drag. It also heralds the coming of those warm-weather pursuits that so invigorate the soul. Maybe that's what this is all about: the desire to lay on a blanket next to a cooler with the smell of sunscreen wafting across the olfactory sensors.
Is it too early for visions of outdoor concerts to dance in my head? By early April, the word will be out on what fare the Park City Institute has collared for their 2014 Deer Valley Snow Park Amphitheater season. Not to mention Mountaintown Music and their free Wednesday evening shows at the same venue.
I do understand that, philosophically, I'm on thin ice, here. I'm certainly not adhering to the Ram Dass axiom to "Be Here Now." I am not "in the moment," as they say. I'm breeding unnecessary angst. Anxiety looms! Woe am I! Well, so it goes! It's just the way I am. Neurotics need love, too!
Anyway, it's just a game, nothing more! What better way to imagine the road to Defa's Dude Ranch being open and the trail into the High Uintas Wilderness and Grandaddy Basin being clear of snow and deadfall.
But that doesn't mean I should be using any voodoo or hoodoo or black magic to bring about an early end to the snow season for my friends with knees that continue to articulate. That would be selfish. There remain turns to be made and trail to be broken and, hopefully, noisy, stinking, snowmobiles to get mired in bottomless snowdrifts.
So, in the meantime, I'll continue to imagine a more perfect world, one in which I live more fully in the present, mourning doves flock back to the Heber Valley foothills, all my favorite bands sign-up to play outdoors live in Park City, and Clayton Kershaw comes out of spring training having relearned to spot his curveball.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.