Like millions of my fellow Americans, I am “sheltering in place,” reading more, connecting through virtual means, walking with friends, playing with my companion cat, Patches. But something miraculous is happening outside my house in my own front and back yard and all around me. Spring is finding us, acting as if nothing were different. When I walk early each morning, there is much bird song suddenly as birds of all sorts are sending out mating signals because it’s time to make new birdies and carry on their bird lines. In a friend’s front yard, snow drops are in bloom, taking me back to early childhood in Fairfield, AL, where my gardener mother knelt down with me when I was about five and showed me the tiny white things with drooping heads and tiny green dots around their edges. She told me those were the “harbingers” of spring–and, yes, she probably taught me that “big” word way ahead of the vocabulary charts.
I know it’s too soon to uncover certain perennials or to rake around them, but some leaves can be gathered by the handsful, so I go out and kneel down to scoop them up little by little and secure them into my brown bags that the city will start collecting next week. By then, it may be possible to use a real rake in certain parts of the front so I can begin to believe in the colors that will follow and the annual plantings I will make in May. At the base of my front porch steps, tiny bluetts are sending up their razor-thin leaves, letting me know that before long all that ground will be covered in magic blueness for a very few precious days. And every spring helpful birds transfer a few more bits of them so next spring even more of my front ground will “bloom” like a midwestern desert. And out back, I have a large stand of angelica bushes that by late May will be taller than I am and will have put forth their hollow stems at the tops of which are the most delicate filaments that shimmer in the sunlight and quiver in the breeze. They come before almost everything In my garden and so they are my particular harbingers now I live in Minnesota. So I’ve been squatting beside these tiny clumps and welcoming them back to another year in their life and my life.
Surely as this country and the world waits and worries about how we will all be when the corona virus has run its course for now, the gradual and glorious arrival of spring is more precious than ever. So I choose to focus on nature’s sounds and growth spurts, recalling the famous lines “If winter come, can spring be far behind.” I also remember what the mystics all say–we have to descend into darkness in order to ascend into the light. So thank you robins and cardinals, eagles and song sparrows; and thank you green shoots and tendrils, buds and sprouts. Nature will provide us with the grace and beauty we so badly crave these surreal days and sometimes long nights.