Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spring 2015: Just Showing Up Means a Lot

            So this is the week things are starting to show. The maple tree in front of the house opened its red buds. The hyacinths in the front yard poked up from under the the boxwood hedge. And the daffodils Sonya and I planted in the back last fall opened their big yellow faces in the hopes of some decent weather. Maybe a couple of days of sun; some highs in the sixties.
            April has always been daffodil month. It's that earlier generation of bloomers, the avant-garde, that got stuck in the snow for a month. March bloomers, forsythia, crocuses, hellebores (or 'Lenten roses,' top photo), were all a month later or more when they showed their smiles in April.
            Last weekend we celebrated a sunny Saturday by taking a walk in the woods, the near-to-Boston forest park of the Blue Hills, to look for signs of seasonal change there. Signs were few and far between. No trees in bloom. No new green leaves up in the trees or down in the undergrowth. No wildflowers. I saw a butterfly with dusky moth-like colors flit by.
       It was that in-between season. The ground was dry, the snow was gone, and the vernal pools were alive with peepers.

            Peepers are tiny tree-frogs. Birthed in pools free of fish, tiny black bodies consisting mostly of voice, amphibians the size of quarters. They call and respond, banging out a percussive chorus in the above-freezing temperatures of March. Up to their vernal tricks, only this year in April. We haven't heard their shouting-in-the-season voice in years, our own neighborhood too far from the woods.

             Still, we looked for something fresh and green-growing -- here we are, after all, well into third week of April -- without success. We should at least be able to spot some skunk cabbage, I thought. They we came to a pretty spot where a stream, full after the snow melt, was rambling clear and happy as it dipped beneath our well-used walking trail, its watercourse dotted by low rafts of bright green: the still enfolded leaves of the skunk cabbage (third and fourth photos).
                 One other sign -- not of spring -- so much as endurance: The smiling face of the 'green man' cut in a hollowed out stump along the trail (second photo).       
            We noted other late starters, back home. The Lenten Rose finally showed its color, a dusky pink; some years we have seen it in February. A few blue star-flowers amid the thick mats of vinca in the front garden; the vinca, a sure April bloomer in ordinary times, still holding fire. (I saw the first of their tight purple flowers in the back garden this afternoon).
            And, tonight, the birds on Exeter Street. Houses close together, modest lots, but we are not too urban for bird calls. They were loud, melodic, percussive -- jamming -- varied. I don't know how many different voices (at least four), putting the day to sleep in the age-old fashion.
            It was that the sort of spring twilight when the tiny birds of eastern Massachusetts consist entirely of big voices and a few feathers. When the twilight faded, the sky darkened, we saw the crescent moon with a single silver star beside it.
            A spring sky, a promising sky. And the ancient vernal chorus of the birds of April just beyond the doorstep.