So one day it's suddenly warm and the snow, so recent, has been soaked up by the already soggy earth or sipped by the brightening sky. Broken into paper thinness, the fallen leaves of last autumn appear, a throw blanket over patches of garden. From under this mulch of damp, mud and stone emerge those first hardy heralds: the tips of daffs and tulips, the incredibly delicate crocus, the shaggy leaves of poppies.
Hidden below out in the big garden we dig, as if for treasure. Have the parsnips grown? Have the mice gotten to them over the winter? Have they rotted where they once stood upright?
Carefully, we tug at their muddy tops, but not too hard or they will break like overwrought pencils at test time. Memories of shattered carrots come to mind.
After some muttering -- pleading actually -- out pops a long and straight specimen. Pearly under the grime of a long winter. Matured under the fire of wicked frost. Damp and frozen and yet in the early spring, ready to reap.
Into the sink they are piled for a quick shower, followed by a more rigorous massage with veg brush. They come clean and already emit a heady perfume; a tang of pine with creamy undertones.
In the peeling, comes the first sensory bonanza: the sweet smell fills the kitchen. Then later, from the cook pot they invite a dash of orange juice, a spray of curry, butter. Whipped into a cloud of pale orange, festooned with a freckling of fresh parsley, they command the dinner plate. Their long journey from summer to fall and through the long winter is noted. Like the crocus, the parsnip announces rebirth, the victory of spring over winter and other welcome sights to come: chives, asparagus, the first deep green of the yards before the first cut, the arrival of the bobolinks, all the way from South America to this Maine hay field, so effusive in their song despite their long journey.