Spring Fever, Satisfied

We are reveling in spring here in Michigan.

It feels like such a blessing after a very long winter that reached its grasping, scraping fingernails into April and was reluctant to let go.

But now, our spring flowers are in bloom.

Our foliage is stretching out to greet the sun.

And our feeders are being visited by exciting birds I rarely get to see, like orioles…

…and rose-breasted grosbeaks.

Along with our more common visitors: cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, house finches, chickadees, downy woodpeckers, and goldfinches.

We even get to see quite a lot of the neighborhood turkey, who likes hanging out in our back yard and our neighbor’s in the morning.

The poor thing is rather frightened of my little chihuahua mix (all seven pounds of her) and seems utterly dumbfounded by fences.

The view out of my upstairs office window is improving day by day as the trees leaf out.

Even the rainy days are rather warm. The daffodils and scilla and crocuses are all gone now, but tulips and grape hyacinth are hanging on, and the flowering trees are just past peak. Rivers and creeks are running high with much rain. My thoughts turn outward, toward summer travel plans, as they always do this time of year.

In about five weeks or so, my sister and I will be hiking the Porcupine Mountains, one of the stops my son and I made on our epic UP Road Trip last June. Our chosen path will take us along rushing rivers, past seven waterfalls, along the shore of Lake Superior, along escarpments, and through forests that will be weeks behind in terms of new growth (which means we’ll get to experience this marvelous spring a second time). Our campsites will have us sleeping alongside the Little Carp River, on Lake Superior at the mouth of Toledo Creek, and up on the escarpment not far from the Lake of the Clouds.

Rocks and rivers, woods and waterfalls. 60,000 acres of wilderness. Time to reflect, to rest our minds and busy our feet. Alison and I look forward to our hiking trip each year. We’ve been lots of places. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Grand Sable Dunes, Tahquamenon Falls, the Manistee River, the Jordan River Valley.

The Porkies have been on our Someday List. It takes a long time to drive there (nearly 9 hours drive time from my house in the state capital, plus time for rest stops and meals) so you need two extra days built in just to get there and back. Thankfully, timing seems to have worked out in our favor this year.

I guess after this, we may have to start saving our money to fly to more trails further away!

We May Be Done with Winter…but Winter Is Not Done with Us

Yesterday after church, the Rev. and the boy and I watched The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe again.

It seemed somehow appropriate to our current situation.

Stuck in what feels like an unending winter.

Encased in ice.

Under a flat gray sky.

We’re halfway through April, if you can believe it.

These poor quince buds have been waiting and waiting to bloom.

The trees have been waiting to sprout new growth.

Even the evergreens seem tired of it all.

We wait eagerly for the next season.

And comfort ourselves with what we hope is one last fire.

My World Blooms

It’s been marvelously, beautifully, gloriously spring around these parts.

Everything’s pushing up and out, drinking in the sun and rain.

It’s wave after wave of flowers.

Each week something else takes center stage.

Every leaf is fresh and new.

Every bud a gift that opens on its own.

April is the poem the earth writes in flowers.

Less, More, and the In-Between

We’re on the cusp of something. The March winds are stirring things up. Dry leaves rattle along the road and hold desperately to one another on my patio. The birds have tuned their voices. The sky is a pure, beautiful blue.

Spring makes us consider the possibilities of a well-edited wardrobe and surprises us with the fact that, even after last year’s big clothing purge, we can still find more than eight bags worth of clothes to donate.

It has us thinking about getting a standing desk and reorganizing the office (again). It calls little canaries to fly back and forth in their cages at great speed. It awakens the poet within.

Spring whispers in our ears that there is a difference between contentment and complacence. That safe is not better than soul-stirring. That horizons are meant to be chased.

Spring shows us that we need less than we think to be happy. That there is more to life than what we see in it at this moment.

It’s the restless, in-between time that makes dreamers of us all.

 

Sloughing Off Winter

Maybe it’s the sunshine we got this morning, or maybe I’ve just had too much coffee, but I feel like it’s time to start spring cleaning despite the fact that our temperatures are only in the low 20s and there’s a dusting of snow on the ground. I won’t be throwing open the windows or anything, but the thought of clean laundry and shiny wood floors suddenly excites me far more than it should. I’ve recently noticed the layer of dust on the printer, the general stuffiness of the house, the discombobulation under the kitchen sink. The atrophy that occurs after months of insideness. The piles of junk begging to be organized or put into bags and dropped off in a bin at the back of the thrift store.

Everywhere there is evidence of neglect.

In the office, a box containing Christmas wrapping, a chair I’ve been meaning to re-cover, the buckets I used to condition the aquarium water for fish now long dead.

In the kitchen, a waffle maker that hasn’t been used in weeks still on the countertop, an empty space on the wall that should hold the 2017 calendar I never got around to buying, a Tupperware cupboard in complete disarray.

In the living room, the air conditioning cover that blew off in high winds weeks ago, the snow pants that haven’t been necessary since January, the basket of Christmas cards I forgot to recycle.

And there’s more, so much more! When people ask me how I can write as much as I do when I work full time . . . this is how! I let other things go.

But the robins and red-winged blackbirds and sandhill cranes are back. The buds are swelling on the bare trees. The rivers are swollen with rain. They’re telling me that it’s time to clean up my act — clean up my house — and get ready for a new season.

Spring? What’s this “spring” you speak of?

Spring break is always touch and go in the Midwest. But this year takes the cake when it comes to crappy weather. It snowed at least a little every day, and sometimes it looked like this:

April 8, 2016

Now, I’m normally not one to complain about snow; I consider it part of my mission on this earth to balance out everyone else’s constant whining about it. But everyone has their limit. Thankfully, it is mostly melted now and the forecast for Wednesday through Sunday is phenomenal. This weekend I hope to finally finish clearing away to old leaves from the gardens and get the yard bags out to the street for pick-up.

During the rotten weather this past week I did use my time well, adding about 8,000 new words to my current WIP. This week I’ll have to put that on pause as I go over I Hold the Wind one more time before sending it to my agent. I’ve also been putting together my first newsletter, which should be going out at the end of the week! If you want to get this subscriber-only content, you can sign up here.

I’m cautiously optimistic that spring truly is coming to stay this week, which puts me in a generally hopeful mood, as does the news that, for the first time in a long time, we may actually be getting a tax refund this year. Now, if only the housing market in mid-Michigan would bounce back a little more…

Ah, well. One thing at a time.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something…True?

Remember in this post how I mentioned I’m neither plotter nor panster while writing, but a planter? Imagine my amusement last night as I flipped through the May/June issue of Writer’s Digest (which came in March) to find they had a fairly long article talking about plantsing. Great minds and all that…

Well, I’ve found myself busy planting again. Not in the garden, though that time is drawing near, but in a fresh document on my laptop. And frankly, I’m a bit surprised at myself. I don’t tend to start writing something new as spring supplants winter. I’ve done most of the drafting of my novel manuscripts during the dark and snowy mornings and evenings between November and March. Then I set things aside for a bit as I tend to the yard and the gardens — you know, real planting. And once that’s all under control and busy growing, I pick literary things back up in early summer to revise.

Yet this year I find myself ready and excited to draft a new project as March rolls into April. To be fair, I did start it at the very beginning of autumn last year (though because I was in Albuquerque at the time, it felt like summer). I had to put it down a while as I worked on edits for The Bone Garden for my agent and then worked on a big revision of I Hold the Wind, which I’m hoping to send my agent’s way in the next month or two. But now that my mind is off those projects, I find I’m itching to get back to this new story.

Except, it’s not exactly new. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m taking parts of an old concept and changing up the plot and characters into something new. I’m borrowing the old setting, a few characters, and part of the conflict, but combining them with new characters, new conflicts, and new, more personal themes. I finished the first chapter this morning as the birds sang and the sun rose. And though I had to stop and get to work, the next chapter is coalescing in my mind.

This is the thrilling, intoxicating part of the very long and arduous process of creating a novel — where the premise you’ve been nurturing in your head begins to take the form of written sentences and paragraphs and pages, like watching the slow, steady growth of the spring bulbs in the back yard. First they are just scattered points of green among last year’s rotting leaves. Then they are the length of your fingernail, then they reach to your first knuckle. Slowly, each day, they gain ground, press up toward the warming sun. And finally they flower. And that’s the point you know spring is here, this story is going somewhere marvelous, and you’re dying to take others along with you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

This post is not about the Michigan primary.

Nothing quite stirs the Midwestern soul like spring. The prospect of temps in the 50s and 60s and we start taking down the storm windows and dragging all the cardboard boxes from the last six months of deliveries out to the recycling center. We suddenly want to take walks and organize closets and clean out the garage. The sound of water trickling into the storm drain makes us nearly as giddy as the sound of birds looking for mates. Yesterday afternoon as I drove to get my son from school I smiled (and may have audibly sighed with contentment) at a weather report announcing possible thunderstorms in the evening.

Reality check. Don’t get used to this. It’s just for a day or two, then it will get cold again.

But then you look at the extended forecast and see this:

Spring Forecast

Glorious spring! God is merciful! Even at night it’s not supposed to freeze! Within a day or two, even the disgusting mountains of dirty snow and busted shopping carts at the centers of parking lots could be gone!

If the meteorologists are correct (stop laughing) this could turn out to be a marvelous March indeed.