Last Friday a huge rainstorm marched across western Massachusetts and erased most of our snow cover exposing a mostly brown, barren earth. It seemed as if Mother Nature was preparing her canvas to contrast against the lights and brights of emerging spring. But Mother Nature will take her time with her spring canvas here in New England. She may even decide to bring us a Nor’ester if she gets bored with her dirty brown backdrop. Her final brush strokes won’t be painted on until mid June. While she is adding her colors here and there, week after week, I will be both listening and looking for, breathing in, and enjoying the gifts of spring as I do year after year. I will be inspired by the return of life after another long, cold, gray winter. And without further ado I bring you the gifts of spring:
1. Songbird songs: I find listening to songbirds a great way to escape the ceaseless thinking of my mind. Starting some time in late January I noticed an increase in birdsong from our native songbirds as the sun crept slowly over the mountain earlier and earlier. Now, about seven weeks later, they were all trying to outdo one another with their signature melodies as I pattered about the kitchen preparing lunches and coffee this morning. The house finches and the gold finches, I think, are in a battle for the top spot with their sweet up and down whistling music. If you haven’t filled your bird feeders yet now is a great time. (Unless bears are common backyard visitors.) You may find that some of your bird friends have decided to nest in or near your yard. And watching the young fledge is quite a treat.
2. Peepers: Suddenly one evening you will notice their chirping if you’re lucky to live near some wetlands or a stream. These little amphibians signal the thawing of the earth and emerge to lull us into the evening hours with their steady song. Every evening I either pause when I get out of my car or open my front door and listen. I cannot wait to hear their sweet spring chorus.
3. Spring smell: There is nothing better than breathing in the scent of wet, warm earth after a rainstorm. It’s not quite warm enough yet to experience this sweet invigorating perfume here, but I am anticipating its arrival. It makes me want to start digging and planting.
4. Tree bud haze: I love when you’re driving along the highway and there is a soft wash of light reds and greens covering the trees up and down the valley and along the sides of all the roads. On sunny mild days I like to inspect the buds on the trees in my yard anticipating this beautiful display. Patience is required as it’s only late March but the transformation is worth every cold day.
5. The very first crocus: I’m still waiting to see this harbinger of spring. I know all the exact places in my neighborhood where I might see these little guys, and you can be sure I’ve been stalking them on my walks. I remember the very first time I took notice of them. I was probably about 7 years old skipping about my great-grandfather’s property when I suddenly ran into them in his backyard. There were dozens and dozens of them broadcast throughout the lawn. I remember standing there transfixed by the sheer delight of discovery and beauty. That was just the beginning of the very magical place his backyard was for me. The very first crocus brings me right back to that time of youthful mystery and magic.
6. The arrival of the tropical birds: Soon our native birds will have to make room for our summer visitors. Throughout April and May birds from South and Central America will flood our neighborhoods like the tourists in Cape Cod every summer. Some will have flashy colors like the scarlet tanager, the rose-breasted grosbeak, and the Baltimore oriole. Others will spend most of their time high up in the treetops such as many of the warblers. It is an adventure to go looking for them. There are too many to write about here, but spotting one of these birds always brings me joy and excitement. One of my favorite visitors is the wood thrush. They are rarely seen and never come to bird feeders, but if you live near a significantly wooded area you will hear their beautiful song every morning and evening. They call out from the mountain near my house and I am momentarily transfixed into a state of peace. Henry David Thoreau said this about the wood thrush:
“Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; whenever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country, and the gates of Heaven are not shut against him.”
And I leave you here with these gifts of spring. Has spring arrived where you live? Are you still in the depths of winter like my neighbors in the Berkshires? What are you looking most forward to this spring?
Thanks for reading,