After so many short, cold days and long, frigid nights along with the wintry wallops as icing (so to speak) on the proverbial cake, the hint of a change in season is as welcome as ice cream and vacation in July. That ephemeral hint is nothing so obvious as the soft fragrance of early-blooming flowers. The vaguest swelling of tree buds isn't enough to herald spring, nor are the tender blades of grass shooting up following the long-awaited thaw. I guess you could say it's not what you smell or see or feel, but what you don't. Breezes (and winds) no longer carry the watery, sharp-edged scent of ice that they did when whipping over the fields and plowed mountains of deep snow. The world somehow looks softer in contrast to the crisp sparkle of the last several months and scenery that stood out in stiff, high relief against the frosty sky seems to almost relax and stretch beneath the gaze. And the air doesn't feel quite so hard against the skin, as the harsh hands of Old Man Winter almost affectionately lighten up their rough handling of us with a touch more warmth than expected. In the heart of D.C. these signs of spring seem, at best, like a strongly-held, but abstract belief. But out here in Frederick County, we experience it as nothing less than a miracle -- just as intangible, yet as incontrovertibly real as life itself.