Spring In Val di Non (aka “Dirt Motorbike Season”)
Springtime, in most places, is a gentle season — a welcomed reprieve from winter’s frosty dull. Things start slowly coming alive, grasses poking their verdant heads above the warming soils, flowers opening like untended wishes. Winter is finally abating, as the landscape is almost imperceptibly colored in.
But springtime in Val di Non is not like this. It’s an outright assault to the senses.
In Val di Non, primavera (spring) is the great catch-up time. Months spent waiting around indoors through winter, shoveling snow and hauling wood and finding uses for fall’s leftover apples, have suspended most of the outdoor tasks. But with spring’s arrival, the things that couldn’t get done in winter are suddenly imminently urgent.
People scurry from their houses, flitting around their yards and gardens, busy with tasks to check off the long-dormant to-do list. They trickle into the woods to clear fallen trees, into front yards to slice through piles of last year’s logs, and into gardens with smoke-spewing tillers.
The chainsaws rev.
The engines roar.
The outdoor world is aburst with life, exploded into noise and chaos and clamor and commotion. But rather than enjoy all this energy and movement, rather than revel in it like you think a person might, my reaction was that of someone under shell fire. Spring in Val di Non had me wearing earplugs until dark.
Coming from winter’s motionlessness, the transition into spring was so shocking that I’d find myself actually longing for a return. For a casual, surreptitious slide backwards into winter’s deep snowdrifts that lay like hushed shadows.
Instead, the snow piles would funnel into rivulets, the grasses would revive, and the birds would emerge from more northern climes to taunt us with sprightly, incessant song.
Before long, young men would also emerge (from behind garage-sized stacks of wood), wearing full-faced helmets and speeding willfully down streets and trails and through farm fields.
The dirt motorbike became our impromptu emblem of the Val di Non spring: their high-pitched, drilling rumble passing our house multiple times a day. Longer daylight hours meant longer riding hours, and so we’d often hear young men in the neighborhood arriving home on their dirt motorbikes after midnight.
Then, one day, it hit me just how ingrained dirt motorbike riding had become to the youth culture of the valley. Walking back from work, there was an awful grinding metal sound behind me, followed by rallied screams. And when I turned around, two young men were splayed out on the cobblestone street — two knights fallen from their steeds.
They’d just crashed their dirt motorbikes.
Yet just as quickly, the young men stood. Dusted themselves off. Readjusted their helmets and roared past. Leaving me just standing there, coughing on their road dust.
And so I accepted it right there and then: spring is no longer a blithe, hopeful time of the year, but one of hawkish aggressivity. The antithesis of what I’ve always known spring to be. She is pugnacious; she will not be softened. And I can live with that, knowing what I know, now.
Spring in Val di Non is a season of noise.
And so I turn to you, dear reader. Do you think it’s like this in all cold climates? Where winter lies so intensely dormant that the only option, come spring, is for the world to awaken like a slap in the face? How about where you live? Once spring arrives, do you long for winter’s return as much as I do, here in this lush apple valley?