The daffodils and tulips are sprouting, dandelions popping up in the backyard, and the brown grass disappearing, albeit slowly.

As we rake leaves left over from fall, the cats race around the lawn, jumping high and batting them to the ground.

It’s spring, and if ever we needed a good one, this is it.

It was a long, tough winter.

There are still dirty snow piles around, tucked in corners of buildings and in parking lots, reminding us we’ve not been out of the woods long.

Spring this year is crawling in, teasing us with spurts of sun, and then receding like a mischievous child.

It’s a dance, this moving forward and drawing back — tempting and then disappointing.

Robert Frost, in his long poem, “Two Tramps in Mud Time,” described this time of year well:

“You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May. 
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.”

I suspect one day we’ll wake up to hot sun, the dance of spring will be over and finally, we’ll be into summer.

It’s funny how we forget all about the terrible winter once the heat arrives.

We’ll soon be heading for cover, irritable and impatient, and complaining about the humidity.

But for now, we’re cleaning up from winter, planning gardens, setting vacations and scheduling summer trips.

For my own modest garden, three rows of carrots seem doable, a couple rows of tomatoes, two of onions, some cukes, zucchini, green beans, peppers, lettuce and herbs, of course.

Potatoes are nice and fun to dig, but do I want to deal with beetles?

Corn takes up too much space for my little garden; while squash is great, it too needs plenty of room and I can as easily get squash at roadside stands.

One day, I’d like to have raspberry bushes like my father had. When he was little, he and his grandfather raised lots of raspberries and sold them on their Durham farm. Later, Dad had them in his own garden.

Nearly as lovely as spring is the dreaming. I’m looking forward to selecting seeds and seedlings, preparing the soil, hoeing out rows and digging my fingers into that cool, damp earth.

Early summer is forgiving. It treats us with kindness, after a harsh, punitive winter such as the one we just experienced.

We especially deserve a gentle summer this year: dry and sunny, with soft breezes to caress our sun-kissed skin.

I think we’ll go to Campobello and Grand Manan islands, where my ancestors lived, and which I have only heard about. There’ll be treks to Pemaquid, Camden and points east, and maybe we’ll explore some northern territory.

We Mainers know how to live in summer, packing it all into that short season, which we all know ends too quickly.

We flock to the ocean, hike the mountains, sleep under the stars and swim in our deliciously cold lakes.

There’s no reason to go anywhere else, really.

In summer, at least, we know there’s no better place than our own backyard.

Florida and the islands in winter, maybe; but come June in Maine, it’s all right here.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 26 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at acalder@centralmaine.com