Although we certainly can’t complain about the winter we haven’t had — all the cold and snow were re-routed to other parts of the world — spring is still exerting the old rousing-the-bear-from-hibernation force around the neighborhood.
So I festivate the equinox with a string of springy pictures, in no particular order, because I have the sensation that everything is happening pretty much in unison, like the Rockettes. This wonderful, too-brief phase comes down to essentially two things: Fish and flowers.
The past few days have seen the slaughter of the seppie — anybody with a boat and some free time seems have gone out to snag as much as they can of what the tide was bringing in. Our neighbor came home one day with 25 kilos (55 pounds) of the little monsters. He gave us some, which were better than anything we could have bought.
But you don’t have to have a boat in order to do major damage to the incoming horde of tentacled delicacies. There’s quite a detachment of fishermen strung along the fondamenta.
In the past few days, the seppie in the fish market have rarely been anything less than top-notch. Or as this vendor’s sign expressed it: “Marvelous.” With a marvelous low price to match. If you see seppie like this, it’s a venial sin not to buy them. If they don’t look like this, you should skip them and buy something else. Note the lack of black ink smeared all over them. The makeup is applied when the seppie aren’t as beautiful — I mean fresh — as this.
These are go’, a type of goby that makes a fantastic risotto. Actually, we may be among the few people left who use them for that purpose; they’re never on any menu that I’m acquainted with. “Quando la rosa mete spin’, xe bon el go’ e el passarin.” When the rose begins to bloom (i.e., put out its thorns — just go with it), the go’ and the passarini are good. Lino has taken more passarini, or European flounder (Platichthys flesus), out of the lagoon than you could ever count, but they’re hardly ever in the fish market anymore. People like things like sole and salmon from exotic faraway places.
Let’s talk clams. You can certainly go clamming in the depth of winter, but your fingers freeze so you can’t even feel the clams anymore. But on a day like this the sun, the water, the world all seem to conspire to make a few hours clamming during the falling, then rising, tide, just the perfect thing to do.
Note Lino’s net bag — the perfect tool for rinsing the muddy little bivalves. He puts them in a bucket full of lagoon water later to make them finish expelling their internal grit.
Lino takes them the old-fashioned way — one at a time.
There were a few people out who had the same idea. Good thing they kept their distance. Clammers are like any other fishermen — they hate to have other fishermen climbing over them.
The plant life was looking fine, too. These trees have leaves that are practically singing.
The vegetable-boat people planted a tiny peach tree in a pot on their prow, and it has begun to put forth tiny peach blossoms. If they ever harvest tiny peaches, I’ll let you know — otherwise, the memory of these little blooms will be enough for me.
Forsythia, in some hardy gardener’s hardy garden.
A plum tree, slightly behind some of the others I’ve seen, probably because the sun doesn’t shine very much on this part of the street.
Wisteria getting ready to burst.
Cabbages also have to flower.
I don’t know what they are, but that’s not stopping them.
Leaves that are this green are no less lovely than the flowers. In fact, I’m not sure these leaves know they’re not flowers.
Toward 5:00 PM the light begins to warm up in a particularly spring-like way. If there’s any moment lovelier than the dawn, it would be this interlude on the verge of sunset.