seven minutes past seven tonight, chicago time, the sun will slide into absolute right angle, beam its rays straight on the equator. not angled north or south. dead on. bingo. that’ll mean, at long last, no matter how you cut it, it’s spring.
vernal equinox, defined: the planet halved by sun. equal light for all. until tomorrow, when the slant slides north. when south moves into shadow.
spring, the season of exodus and resurrection, of life unfurling, but, too, life falling from the nest. or, sadder yet, getting pushed. it’s death and life all over. to be reborn, the preachers shout, you first must die.
the whole top half of the world is shaking off its winter death. but death, i tell you, comes too in spring. hand in hand with life. this is the season of light and shadow.
it’s seesaw season, yin and yang. it’s stripping off old skin, it’s starting over. it’s tender and it’s green, beginning green. green before the chlorophyll goes gaga.
it’s chirping and it’s warbling. it’s worms being dropped in squawking mouths—life to bird but death to worm. it’s watching mama tend her brood. it’s watching, if you’re lucky, baby owl flap first wings, a sight you won’t forget.
it’s the season of awe. the season of heartbreak. everything feels tender all over. even me, some days.
it’s asparagus thin as pencils. it’s fungi grown in forest shadows. it’s raindrops swelled and pouncing. it’s puddles ripe for rubber boots.
it’s strawberries, so many, you break out in a rash. and then you bite another, dripping red right down your chin. rash, be damned; you drip.
it’s waiting an entire year for star magnolia to explode in cloud of white, perfumed. and then spring wind rips through, stripping branches naked. magnolia tatters piled on the ground. you ache as you pick up pieces. begin the year-long wait again.
it’s holding your breath as heirloom hyacinth bats its smoky lavender lashes, and then you wake up next morning to find the possums had a hoe-down and broke the stalk in two.
it’s going mad with the endless fields of iridescent blue, the siberian squill, that for a few short weeks makes us drylanders think we’re living in the midst of cobalt pools. each nodding head, a mere three inches off the ground. they grow in dappled light and shadow, but only where the earth is long undisturbed. blue ribbon, then, for keeping bulldozer at bay.
the japanese, enlightened, teach that the beauty of the cherry blossom is its evanescence. the very fact that any minute a breeze might blow and blossoms will be scattered. they understand the essence of the season. they might, more than most, be keen to what it’s teaching: behold the blossom. it won’t last for long. inhale the perfume. rub up against the velvet petal.
the italians have a word, tristesse. “beautiful sorrow,” i was told it meant. knowing what you love won’t last. and so you love more deeply. is this the truth of spring?
if you listen to the change in season, if you hold it to your heart, it unlocks all sorts of lessons ripe for plucking.
here are my promises for spring, the season full of promise…..
i will wake up, not with blaring alarm, but gently, with the beads of first light tapping me on my lids.
i will stretch before the sun, bow down, be humbled.
i will make my first stop each morning beyond the kitchen door, in the garden. i will listen to the morning song of whoever’s beat me to the punch.
i will crouch down, inspect the growing things. take note of miracles that unfold in dark of night and light of day when i’m not looking, hunched inside, tapping at a keyboard.
i will make the bent willow basket on my old lady bike the vehicle of choice for ferrying loaves of bread and jugs of milk. don’t forget the berries, plump and sweet.
i will rescue broken flowers and ferry them to my window sill infirmary, where i’ll apply remedies and potions, or simply watch them fade away in peace.
i will swipe the fuzz from my dryer filter, pile it, and lay it at the foot of my big spruce. i might post a little sign: “fuzz, free for all nest-building birds. help yourself.”
i will cry if blustery afternoons wreak havoc on my blossoms. i’ll do the same in case of ice or pelting sleet. i will nurse the hurt, deep breathing, until the stinging goes away. like my knees when i was little and went skidding from my bike.
i will, some night, dine on nothing but the tender shoots of spring. i’ll wash it down with vernal wine, dry and white and new.
i will, as many mornings as i can, stuff myself with strawberries.
i will slosh through puddles.
i will take my little one by the hand and we will jump. see how high we can make the puddles splash.
i will, if i find a baby bird fallen from the nest, whisper a proper benediction as i perform a proper burial. lay a sprig of springtime flowers. teach my boys to do the same.
i will try to read the night sky.
i will watch the sun come up, thermos of coffee planted in the sand beside me.
i will, if i’m in the mood, wrap eggs in onion skins, and marvel at the marbled shades of creme de caramel.
i will master the shortest shortcake ever. then bury it under avalanche of berries.
i will plot my plantings yet again. tuck them into warming soils. hope. pray. sprinkle incantations. and water, too.
i will marvel at these days of yin and yang. and i will drink deeply from the season’s spring-fed well.
that’ll get me started. how ’bout you?