Thursday, March 14, 2013

That Was Quick: Spring




            Four days after Quincy's 18 to 24 inch snowfall (opinions vary) last Friday all the snow has melted off. Ground was being ground again, bare-faced and brazen with dirt, puddles, lots of old brown dead foliage and (in our yard at least) and a fat scrim of dried, soaked, re-dried brown leaves that I spread as a cover over the perennials. Pretty stuff. But you could smell the change in the air. And you could see the old lines emerging, the age-old design, the composition of spring.
            The landscape is still a big, damp, mostly dirty canvas on which spring and sun and eventually warmth will breathe life and color in its own time and own way through a process too complicated to explain and incomparable in its result. However it works, it's effective. We gardeners do our best, but we're nothing without it.
            For another month at least things will go back and forth, but as of now it's game on. Sometimes we will like the developing picture. We will step outdoors, sniff the air, smile and say "spring!'
            Other days we will shiver on the doorstep, put our hood back up, and say "I can't wait for spring to really begin."
            The temperature was in the fifties today. It will top off in the thirties tomorrow. This will have more effect on me than on the plants, which are sending their first shoots upwards now that the latest late-winter snow accumulation has found its way back into the water cycle. Some plants, the early bloomers, may have been shooting up even when that snow was working its way down to slush and then to mud, but we couldn't see them under all that snow.
            Before last week's unexpectedly big snow I gave a few plants, the best candidates for early show, a close inspection and concluded "nothing doing." Today, two weeks into March, I troop around in the longer light, the higher sun -- the sun's almost on the equator now -- and find my crocus shoots in the front of the house, where things look particularly grimy, and stiff, and leaf-strewn.
            Out back the first perennial buds appear where I saw nothing last week, on the Lenten Rose.
            It's official. It's the starter's gun for the season. Let's go.
            It's likely to be a slow-starting season. It already is. With forecasts calling for a week or so of lower temperatures, human emotions won't be flowering on the exultation meter. But the birds already know it's time for the season of heavy living.
           You can hear their songs are different, lighter, but more sustained. They're not talking about where the next birdfeeder is any more, but setting up their brackets for the mating and nesting tournament about to begin. I saw large gray songbirds in the marsh today. I scared a rabbit into racing into a thicket of low shrubs; then scared him out of again and watched him run a wide semicircle around nothing to dive into some cover far enough away that I could no longer follow his trail.
            The Canada geese were back in the marsh grass today, and the tidal waters swollen by melt water filled the channels to overflowing. Splashing with light from a reflected light-blue sky, they made the scene look like a cool-weather everglade. No alligators, but a man with a dog, an old wide-bellied white lab
            "I've never seen the snow melt so fast," he told me in a tone of astonishment.
            My point exactly.