Here in the north, we await spring alongside our longsuffering tree companions. Yesterday we had a typical spring bluster curving the stoic trees into the posture of an elderly man bent stiffly forward at the hip. Branches swayed in frank petition for their leaves to come soon. Soon Lord!
It seems we need a greening of the soul.”
The daffodils and forsythia are drunkenly painting the town yellow in defiance of lingering snowflakes. At the post office, there’s a fellow in shorts, a woman in winter boots and scarf, two suntanned folks joyfully reuniting after a long winter in the south, and a tuneful whistling coming from the sorting room. All this color and joy under the dark and foreboding old mural of a sinking Ann Arbor car ferry. And yet, the post office is family of sorts, with a seeping warmth in the face of the chilled grayness outside-this is spring in our little town up north.
Yes, spring in the north is for reunions, and color explosions, leaves and grass and blooming bulbs. But mostly, for me, spring is for birds and sweatshirts. Oh, how I love sweatshirt weather in the north. I can sit in my SOTD (sweatshirt of the day) on the deck and watch the birds for hours.
The wood thrush has returned, shyly showing off his speckled vest, singing like a busker at eventide. I would toss you a dollar if you could use it Mr. Thrush. May you be blessed with a lovely brood to add to the forest choir.“
It will only be days before the grosbeak, ovenbird, and vireo are here to join you, while the ruffed grouse beats his drum to lure in a mate. Yes, it is a blissfully happy time here in my sweatshirt, here at the place where dune and forest meet.
Just don’t blink; things quickly change this time of year. Yesterday’s drab unremarkable goldfinch is shockingly yellow this morning. The grass greened up within hours of rain, and the weeds are already out there laughing at me. They adore their effect on my futile thinking. Beware weeds-I have a new tool for rooting you out like a secret buried sin.
Yes, sweat-shirted and shivering I wait and watch, glad of the trees’ nakedness that I might see the birds better. Soon, all will gratefully hide behinds the leaves’ green screen. I am keen to glimpse a flash of red, the vivid scarlet of the tanager, the royal velvet head of the woodpecker, and its pterodactyl-like pileated cousin already hammering away at a dying ash down the lane. I listen for new songs and the whir of the hummingbird, and thrill to awake before dawn to the insistent hoots of the resident great horned owl calling its newly-fledged owlets to a freshly-killed banquet.
Wait. Ugh. That’s a gritty word that makes me impatient all winter long.”
Watch. A word for thinkers and worshipers and those who hope. Listen. A word to hush me up and be still because there are other voices I need to hear. Spring up north is a signal to be on the lookout. To still the soul enough to hear what God has to tell me. To enfold the unfolding flora into my heart of stone. To laugh at the squirrel’s chase, the weeds’ taunts, and to wrap myself up in my sweatshirt to step out, arms wide, heart a-warming, and thank God for this time of year.
Thanks for reading along!
Julie A.P. Walton, Ph.D.
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