When we first arrived in Portland our son warned us that spring was actually several seasons in one – fake spring, late winter, early spring, summer, real spring, winter again, and so on. In the course of one week this March we went from intermittent snowfall to warm sunshine, followed by gentle breezes with a dash of thunderstorms, dithering back and forth from fog and showers to warm sunshine, and then a steady rain today. Sometimes all that happens in one day!
The subtler signs of Spring were hidden at first by the late snowfall, but now the quiet movement of the earth in equinox is fully apparent. There are the obvious signs of early blooms springing forth, blossoming trees, warmer temperatures. For me, the more elusive signs are somehow sexier than the flamboyant and ubiquitous daffodils and tulips, gorgeous as they are. Tiny bits of purple peek out amidst brown dry leaves, grasses, and branches. Deciduous trees are still an array of sticks but show off the faintest of budlets, stark against the new blue of sky and river. Moss on trunks and branches is losing its day-glo green, drier now, flaking off in strips of old skin. The evergreens sport the tiniest tips of brilliant green at the outer edges of their limbs. It’s all a come-hither look if I’ve ever seen one. Foreplay with no promise of eventual consummation.
New flocks of birds arrive, their songs variations of call and response, a cacophonous chatter of the twitterpated, or airborne rap battles. Ever watchful hawks spiral lazily on a gentle breeze, and the bees return, visiting our newly planted heather.
I come out of my winter cocoon as surely as a new moth, creaky, unfurling, and slow. I head outside with still damp newly washed hair, something I never would have done in winter. Pockets of snow and ice clung to shady corners for the longest time.
Along the river a couple boats venture out on the water leaving a wake lapping gently on the shore. The private docks are still mostly empty, but a few boats are out of hibernation, tied up and ready.
Neighborhood walks reveal subtle human signs. Folks in their yards are pruning and cutting back dead branches, raking up winter wind-fall detritus. The insulating faucet covers are replaced by hoses, and a man washes the last gritty snow leftovers from his car, while another power washes his house, and my husband scrubs the moss from the patio and deck.
I overhear a conversation, “So you’re going to keep a residence here?” “Yeah, we’ll go in November and come back in March.” For a moment I’m wistful about having that choice, avoiding the grimness and discomfort of winter, living inside and wearing bulky layers. But then, could we truly appreciate the spring? Adversity sharpens our delight. My neighbor grumbles about the warm spring weather, distressed about suffering through the hot summer, saying she can’t wait until fall! It’s a reminder to stay present.
I’m sometimes doubtful in the thick of winter, but then I’m doubly grateful that the earth reliably hasn’t forgotten to revolve and evolve. We can be amnesiac as we plod through our lives regretting or savoring the past, dreading or anticipating the future. The earth takes it a day at a time, and acts on its deep intuition that there’s a time and place for everything.
I stop to chat with an elderly woman about the gorgeous weather, and she tells me she’s lived here all her life and spring still comes as a surprise every time. This makes me inexplicably happy. Later, a passing hiker stops just to say, isn’t it lovely to not be wearing our heavy jackets? I tell her how just that morning I made a little ceremony of hanging my down puffy in the closet, along with hat and gloves, and we laugh with delight. That’s not to say that the warm clothes won’t come out again, but they’re not on the hook by the door, a daily armor. Jubilant walkers unzip jackets or wear their second layer tied around their waist. By the end of my walk I’m down to just shirt-sleeves, thinking how I might even dare to wear short sleeves next time. That’s about as far ahead as I want to plan right now.
“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”― Rainer Maria Rilke