A few springs back, before menacing floods deformed the area, I literally tripped over a sight that shocked me to the core. I was walking along the side of the muddy road through the Arches when I encountered a pile of raccoons. Unearthed from melted snow, their beady, leaden eyes, as if by some grisly death, reached out to beseech me for humane restitution. I walked away overwhelmed.
We aren’t caught off-guard by spring’s arrival in the same manner as winter, the season that must be accepted as it makes its rude appearance. Spring is more like waking up one warmer day and there it is – radiating from fluffy-clouded skies, wafting scents of rich, fertile lawns, waving from trees budding across hillsides, and welcoming farmers to vast plots of earth to turn for planting.
Children, in their eagerness for leisure activity, shed their gloves, knit caps, and boots before the last traces of dirtied snow disappear and what’s left of winter floats along on the back of the Mississippi. Robins zoom in to perch on our trees as if they own the place.
So often in spring, as we drive through the countryside coming to life, I bring to mind the words of others who’ve honored the subject of spring’s evolution in their writing. Robert Frost’s simple invitation in “The Pasture” touches me with its homespun imagery:
“I’m going out to fetch the little calf/ That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,/ It totters when she licks it with her tongue./ I sha’n’t be gone long. – You come too.” I can almost picture the grandfather I didn’t get to know beckoning to me.
Visiting “the farm” in Bethany were special times for my siblings and me. The Wollin homestead was like another world, where dirt roads led to forestland, between fields of corn and wheat, and down to the dancing Whitewater River. Spring flowers and ferns nodded their greetings along rock cliffs. On the other side, the creek bed below, washed over with snow’s run-off, gurgled and gushed with echoes of ancient waters rising from mossy stones and fallen trees haphazardly placed by nature’s will.
Our entire family, all generations, often hiked down the steep and rock-strewn road to wade in the Whitewater. It was common to spot fishermen downstream, perched on mossy boulders or straddling the swift current in hip boots. A truck or jeep at the top of the road indicated that someone was trout fishing.
A lyrical tribute to a vanishing way of life, Gary Paulsen’s “Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass,” c 1992, is a heartwarming and nostalgic chronicle of the four seasons lived on a farm. From the spring of the year, Paulsen relates these memories:
“Spring. Hide in the haymow and talk.” “…and fall into the hay forever, into the winter-old timothy hay, to fall and fall and finally stop, looking up through a tunnel of soft warm clean hay and then lie and talk.” “Haymow spring talk about what would be, what could be, what we hoped would be, spring haymow talk about stolen moments, stolen kisses and hidden candy and bright secrets that nobody outside the haymow could ever ever ever know about. Ever.”
During spring housecleaning, new air through unlatched windows washed away winter’s stale and heavy breath from every cranny and corner. Of childhood, Paulsen writes, “There comes a spring day when school is impossible.” “To sit and play marbles along the south side of the schoolhouse in the soft morning sun, playing for keeps, lusting after shooters and steelies and aggies and cat’s eyes,…”
Spring atones winter’s indiscriminating deaths. The passionate kiss of this season of renewal brings us out of ourselves, to embrace endless horizons, our heartbeats in sync with outdoor things growing, as the planted seed manages to sprout unseen through earth’s fecundated womb.
The land entices gardeners to their knees, to feel the grit of earth within their hands…a sustaining spring communion. Carpe diem!
Janet Burns, an explorer at heart, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.