Bounteous Spring


By James McGuire

Contributing columnist

No doubt about it—spring has plainly sprung!

Practically overnight the weather changed from something uncomfortably close to winter, to what feels almost soothingly summerish.

Along a popular nearby graveled pathway, where I often take Daisy the dog for a quick exercising amble, I’ve noted a sudden fashion change among fellow trail walkers. Whereas only a few days prior, their preponderance of dress favored long pants and hoodies or fleece jackets, shorts, and tees have now become their de rigueur attire.

Last week, my yard’s grass was brownish, attenuated, and looking so anemic it seemed moribund. This week it has rejuvenated—risen from the dead, turned a healthy dark green and threatens to need mowing before very much longer!

Leaves have appeared on many bushes and trees—growing almost before your eyes. And the annual color show of local ephemerals is in full production. Dozens of breathtaking wildflowers are now—or soon will be—in bloom.

For the outdoor-minded, this change for the better offers a plethora of possibilities, a seasonal surfeit of activities and adventures. There’s so much to see, so much to do, so much to experience that schedules strain and collapse.

The downside is that you can’t do it all. It’s simply impossible to sample the full range and array of spring’s countless gifts and possibilities—though some of us surely try!

But trying is the best we can do. It’s like one of those family reunion dinner-on-the grounds deals down South. Multiple long tables covered and groaning under their weighty loads of home-cooked food. Dishes and pots, trays and bowls, sheet pans, platters, plus several slow-cooker pots plugged in via a hazardous snake maze of extension cords— keeping their tasty contents piping hot.

The dessert table alone has two dozen pies!

Even the heartiest of appetites can’t chow their way through all this deliciousness. Though, again, some of us are always willing to give it a try.

Spring, when it truly arrives, is like that—a marvelous, impossible feast!

Making plans becomes a balancing act between what you’ll have time for and what you’re forced to skip.

The choices aren’t easy.

Photographing wildflowers or prowling fields and wooded borders with your biggest telephoto lens, hoping to get a wall-worthy image of some singing bird in bright spring plumage.

Foragers will be skulking about various secret woods on a quest for elusive morels. Or they may be out gathering potherbs and dandelion greens.

Hunters are practicing on their turkey calls and thinking gobblers!

And us fisherman types? Well, we’re trying to decide whether it’s bullheads on the river, crappie at that old gravel-quarry pond a few miles up the road—or do we head for our beloved smallmouth stream?

Days inevitably become a race against the clock and calendar, a hither-thither jumble wherein you attempt to try to taste and sample everything while knowing victory isn’t possible

Spring is a bountiful smorgasbord that’s bigger than even the most enthusiastic appetite. However, restraint is also out of the question in spite of foregone failure. What’s needed is twice as much daylight and three times as much month…but even if that impossible largesse happened, it still would never suffice.

Spring is simply too generous, too liberal with her gifts.

You try and take it all in, and rise to the task—but the sensory circuits overload. You want to slow down and savor this vernal miracle—yet the season comes rushing at you like a telephone solicitor.

Perhaps the closest I ever come to fulfilling this impossible dream happens when I make a multiple-day camping trip. I generally pick a favorite campground with a reasonable diversity of things to do nearby. That way I’m not locked into a specific plan. I can take advantage of vagaries in season and weather. And there’s also plenty of room for serendipitous adventure.

Don’t discount this latter possibility. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about spring: you just never know what’s ahead. A turn in the weather or a turn in the trail can change everything.

Change is spring’s watchword. However, there’s nothing either subtle or slow about this change.

You can ramble one week amidst riotously blooming service berries and redbuds, the next it’s dogwood and wild cherry.

Wildflowers are an ever-changing kaleidoscopic treasure—hepaticas, trout lily, bloodroot, dutchman’s breeches, bluets, wild ginger, foamflower, trillium. A fleeting cycle of exquisite beauty.

Trails begin the season wide open and spacious; you walk along and see everything, the landscape’s features laid bare, its secrets revealed. But visit a week later and leaves obscure much of the view. A week more and everything might then be hidden, invisible behind a cloistered green veil.

Sometimes I think if I listen carefully I will actually hear this changing verdant explosion—the growth and expansion of reawakened life. Hear the viable churning of innumerable buds and blooms, grass and leaves and flowers—expanding and replicating.

By listening closely, surely it’s possible to hear the sweet hum of all this living energy…and, I daresay, the underlying joy of spring’s bounteous life.

Reach the writer at [email protected]

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