Spring comes in colder than we remember it to be and stays that way longer than we like to acknowledge. Spring days make us put on warm clothes and maybe even mittens to walk in the blustery outdoors. We bend our heads into the wind and march over rain-soaked ground while purposeful clouds pass overhead. Seeing college students determined to bring out shorts and flip-flops at the first sign of winter's weakening, I recall springs past, when wearing a new cotton dress, straw hat, and flimsy pastel coat, I shivered on my way to church.
The robins are the first to know that spring approaches. They turn up in February, these hardy workers, and pull their sustenance from stark branches and hard ground. After the robins come grackles. So black they are purple, so purple they are black, these iridescent beauties rarely get their due appreciation--perhaps because they assert themselves so boldly or because they sing a harsh tune. Pretty soon the neighborhood rings with song. I hear the low, slow fluting of mourning doves and know a nest is in progress on the ledge outside the bedroom window. I watch finches flit in and out of the ivy with twigs and bits of dry grass. Not every little bird makes it--spring brings its share of sorrow--but soon fat, speckled fledglings are showing their stuff.
The earth signals its reawakening by sending up crocuses that transform lawns into maps of the stars. The forsythia covers itself in yellow petals before it has time to produce a single leaf. Daffodils and tulips arise and unfold, and we watch for an orchid-pink blossom on the plum tree, because once the first has appeared its sisters will follow so quickly that we almost see them open.
The world turns green in an instant, and once the danger of frost has passed, we head to the yard to clear old leaves and dead growth from the garden and ready the soil for planting: basil, impatiens, maybe a little azalea this year. Our garden is small because the yard lies in shade, but it causes us to anticipate meals at the picnic table and to recall the sun's soothing warmth through thin clothes. Ah, spring!