Spring is Definitely Here
To step outside on a glorious early spring day is to be refreshed, to be revived. Even though we know there are inglorious days ahead, the back of winter is finally broken: spring is definitely here. The days are longer and warmer. The friendly yard flowers are blooming—daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, a few early tulips; the forsythia is right behind them. In the woods, the buds of the oaks and sassafras are swollen, and the tiny spears of the beech leaves are ready to open, like little umbrellas. In the wetlands, the maples now add a dash of red, and the willows blush yellow. In the dunes, the bright green spikes of beach grass are thrusting up through the winter accumulation of sand, and in the bogs, the cranberry leaves are burnished scarlet.
I saw a child’s barefoot prints on the beach today.
While each season has its charm, it is undeniable that spring brings us relief. It is as though the world can breathe again, someone said recently. Yes, the world is stirring and expressing itself.
And what does it have to say? Go forth and procreate.
While the fecundity of the flora is all around us—buds, flowers, shoots—it is the animal world that drives this point home. Of course, what immediately comes to mind are the birds. But what about the loud insistent trilling of the spring peepers: what is this mindless urgency? It is procreation. If you live or hike in the vicinity of a wetland, the sheer volume of the combined peeping chorus can take your breath away; and the sound of a single peeper is equally haunting. It is not beautiful; it is terrifying, really. And consider that the very source of that sound is a tiny frog the size of your thumbnail with the cold-blooded intent of mating. Procreation. A visit to a herring run is another way to experience the brute power that drives life forward, against all odds.
But the birds: Of course the conk-a-ree! of the Redwing Blackbird is especially dramatic and emblematic of spring. These birds have traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to reach our diminishing marshes to build their nests and raise their young. It is a drive they cannot ignore. The same is true for our beloved ospreys, soaring high above us, returning to their platformed nests. Less dramatic is the two-note song of the chickadee, but after a relatively silent winter, it is also compelling. Like all songs, it is a love song. And the winter chattering of the red-breasted nuthatches has taken on a new spring-time cadence, a staccato. A House Sparrow stuffs a beak-full of grass into a crack in the side of a house eave and then goes for more. It is driven to do so. Procreation.
Dylan Thomas wrote:
“The force that through the green fuse drives the flower drives my green age… “
I am not sure what color to assign my age but it is definitely not green—perhaps closer to ochre. But I can still recall a time in my life when unnamed hormonal forces caused me to behave in ways that were bewildering to me. The pulse of rock ‘n roll seemed to capture this inexpressible power. And, of course, all the songs were love songs.
The great value of the natural world is to remind us of our place in it. Even if we seem to have programmed the wildness out, all we have to do is to step outside in the spring and confront life’s great and bounding energy. Procreation is all around us, and part of us as well.