Jim McGuire: Spring is on the way!


Ah, March! we know thou art

Kind-hearted, in spite of ugly looks

and threats—and, out of sight,

Art nursing April’s violets!

—Helen Hunt Jackson

Hooray! Spring is here!

Both calendar and almanac agree on the fact of its arrival. Yesterday’s passing equinox marked the season’s astronomical beginning—a mathematical checkpoint based on earth’s elliptical orbit and the planet’s axial tilt.

But I firmly believe spring, more than any other season, must be experienced. If spring is here, we need to see, smell, hear and taste it.

It’s also best to keep in mind that seasons can’t be scheduled. They won’t abide being ordered to follow time and date. You might as well try telling the wind when to blow.

Seasons are a process. And spring is an incalculable sum that is, hands-down, a singular, resurrective wonderment.

Yep, spring is indeed here—but I say it’s been here awhile already. A conclusion I came to about the middle of last week.

I’d just pulled up and parked in small graveled lot which overlooks a favorite creek. A moment later, as I stepped from my vehicle, I took a breath…and there was simply no mistaking the heady air.

Rich, fragrant, charged with the fecund energy of awakening life. The unmistakable breath of spring!

Spring’s arrival means different things to different people. We fishermen types dust off rods and reels, sort through tackle, and began haunting bait shops.

We also pause during our daily errands to peer over bridges and stare hopefully into the pools below. Of course those of us who simply can’t make do with a quick over-the-bridge glance, regularly stop by certain parking areas and pull-offs for a bit more extended look-see. Long enough to amble down to the creek and check out how things are doing from a close-up, bankside perspective.

I was there, in the lot, eager to see the water. Yet for five minutes I stood by my truck, eyes closed, filling my lungs and soul with the vernal balm of the new season.

Sunlight streamed through the leafless trees surrounding the parking area. It warmed my face while doubtless setting in motion those microscopic bits of suspended particulates which form the basis of all scents.

When it comes to a discerning and sensitive sense of smell, my wife could give a bloodhound serious competition. By comparison, my nose is frankly no longer so good.

But that’s not to say it has quit working entirely.

In addition to the usual woodsy undertones of leaf mold and wet loam, I could pick out the bright incense tang of sunwarmed cedars clumped near the start of the narrow pathway which leads to the water. And a subtle spiciness which seemed to emanate from a mass of budding bushes I couldn’t recognize near the road.

I could see a watery glint beyond a dense screen of willows—and when the westerly breeze picked up, detected the funky primordial odor marking the old, overgrown pond. In days the pond’s tiny peepers would surely be calling. The willow’s stems had taken on an electric yellow-green hue which almost glowed.

There was also something else…a faint muskiness, not unpleasant. I sniffed again and grinned when I recognized the mystery scent as the lingering perfume from a skunk.

After a few more deep whiffs, I set off down the soggy trail toward the stream— rejuvenated and already convinced of spring’s reign by my brief olfactory probings.

Down by the water, I came upon a trio of larger willows, their supple withes also brightened by spring’s quickening sap. Like their pondside brethren a hundred yards up the hill, they too radiated an electric yellow-green.

Robins scratched in the duff. Woodpeckers drummed percussive snags. Cardinals whistled from a still skeletal grove of honey locust. And from some sequestered pulpit deep within a tangle of purplish blackberry briars, a song sparrow cut loose and filled the morning with ebullient melody.

For several minutes I watched a towhee poke about in a nearby thicket. I like towhees. After a while, the towhee hopped onto the low branch of a tall sassafras and began ascending limb-by-limb to the very top. There it perched on an outermost branch and called jauntily.

This rufous-side fellow was also undoubtedly amorously encouraged by the seasonal turning.

Does this mean we’ll have warm weather from here on out

Probably not. March is winding down, but it’s not yet over. April’s violets might appear before the month debuts. But seasonal beginnings are generally punctuated with bouts of regression.

However, the corner has been turned. And regardless of any relapses, the trend is set and there for all to witness.

However, please don’t take my word for it — nor the calendar’s! Get outside and see for yourself. Enjoy making your own decision on whether or not it’s spring.

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