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Edwin Way Teale on winter's end

This passage from ``Wandering Through Winter,'' by Edwin Way Teale, is reprinted by permission of Dodd, Mead & Co., New York. It suggests his feelings on concluding the final (and Pulitzer prize-winning) volume in his series on the American seasons -- bringing a naturalist's record in prose and photographs to the general reader. I pulled to the side of the road, stopped close to the face of a high drift, and switched off the motor. The only sound we heard in the intense stillness was the fine ticking of my wristwatch. In the beam of a small flashlight we followed the movement of its hands, the same hands that had indicated the moment of the season's beginning a continent-span away beside the Pacific. We watched them plod along the dial. They advanced to 9:25; 9:27; 9:29 -- the countdown of a season's end.

The hand touched 9:30. Far away from the hush of this moonlit northern night, over the ocean, off the mouth of the Amazon, at that precise moment the rays of the sun shone directly down on the equator. The vernal equinox, that dramatic milestone of the year, the end of winter and the beginning of spring, had arrived and was gone while my watch ticked once. Spenser's ``ever-whirling wheele of change, the which all mortall things doth sway'' continued its unwearied turning. And everywhere in the northern hemisphere, in city and country, in lands of many tongues, in igloo and ranch home and penthouse as well as here behind the tiny rectangles of the lighted windows of the far-scattered farmhouses rising pale in the moonlight, human beings would be profoundly affected by the changes that would follow.

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For us, so long on winter's traces, this moment had even greater significance. It marked not only the end of our wanderings through the fourth season but the end of our wanderings through all the divisions of the year. We had rounded the great circle. We had come to the beginning again. The shift of an apostrophe told the story. What on previous trips had been the season's end was now the seasons' end.

Back in our room at the Red Brick Motel, on the southern edge of Caribou, I opened once more the small, scuffed, brown-leather copy of James Thomson's ``The Seasons.'' It had traveled with us through all the sequence of spring and summer and autumn and winter. It had ridden with us in four successive cars. It had accompanied us through the Everglades, in Death Valley, amid the rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula, where the Never-Summer Mountains rise in Colorado. I paused at the words I had read at Im perial Beach, below the Silver Strand: ``See, Winter comes to rule the varied year.'' Now, at Caribou, at the season's end, I read again the final lines: ``The storms of Wintery Time will quickly pass, and one unbounded Spring encircle all.''

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