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.
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:
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.
The world melts around me
as the sun caresses
the contours of my city.
A robin addresses
blue sky studded by
clouds hurrying past —
Don’t linger here! Fly! Fly! —
Do I spy a blade of grass?
Or is this mere flirtation?
A sly come hither glance?
Who cares? On this temptation
I’ll blithely take a chance.
It’s the first of March and we’re in for another big snow today in mid-Michigan, though not as big as last week’s. But the signs do still point to spring, including the beautiful eggs being laid by a friend’s chickens.
They are almost too pretty to eat.
March has been busy blowing herself right out of our lives the past couple days. I imagine April close behind, pushing, nudging, maybe sighing as she tries to take her place in the spotlight, March digging in her heels and leaving scuff marks on the stage. No one in the Midwest is sad to see the end of March, and we delight to greet April, that understated, delicate being who always remembers to bring flowers with her. March was still a lion yesterday, gusting and raining and snowing all at once. Perhaps April is our lamb.
I find myself wondering if it is too late to start seeds inside. I’m thrilled to pieces that the leaves are already off the garden and that there is so little to do in the yard now in the early spring. I used to get this manic feeling this time of year, writing up lists of all the things I needed to get done outside before it got too late in the spring. But now, everything’s done. I’m excited to see how my expanded shade garden fills in this year. I anxiously await the first opening buds on my baby redbud tree, hoping it has weathered the very cold winter. I don’t know how many more summers we will have in this house, so I intend to consciously enjoy this one. That will likely translate to lots of pictures of the gardens, so I hope you’ll indulge me when I share them here.
At this moment my yard is swiftly switching between bright and dim, the long shadows cast by tall maple trees and dead ash trees blinking on and off as air currents far above send the clouds skittering across the sky. Across the ground, last year’s crispy brown leaves take a similar trip, bouncing and swirling about like scattering rabbits. There’s hardly a thing out there worth a photo. But there is rain and some warmth in the forecast — just what those dormant roots in the garden have been waiting for.
Spring is a time for poetry. And so I share with you what I wrote this morning.
One Morning in March
It is March,
and the white sky
seeks to remind us of it,
hunching low over the bare treetops
like a fog.
Yet this day we recall
that we did not
settle upon a glacier
or the icy moon Europa,
but upon earth.
brown and bored,
peeks from beneath
the serrated grimaces of soiled snowbanks,
so reluctant to give any ground
Traffic lanes and parking spots
we had forgotten
grow at the margins of this white world
like the black beaches of some volcanic island
of the ice storm emerges
like an ancient ruined metropolis.
Oh, yes, we say,
I remember that storm.
Only the snow made me forget.
I pick up the keys
I dropped in the driveway—
the first dirt
to work its way under my fingernails
the dog’s muddy prints
on the kitchen floor
don’t raise my ire.
I don’t sigh and say, “Sasha!”
as I might have.
We shake ourselves awake
at the birds.
That’s right, we say
There are birds.
It is a grand day, everyone. The last day of another February. Tomorrow it will be March. Let that sink in for a moment.
While you shiver on this sunny, 0°F morning; while my arctic dog is rolling around in the snow like an idiot; while we shuffle through yet another day that feels like a science experiment gone awry–all that time we are moving closer, moment by moment, to March.
Yes, it will be largely a symbolic victory. The battle against seasonal affective disorder will continue and we still can’t see the grass, but we shall overcome the snow in the end.
The birds are already starting to sing the victory song. Can you hear them?
Oh, March. You fickle month. You bringer of sunshine and rain, then ice and snow. You can’t decide whether to reveal the toll the winter has taken on the earth or to cover it all back up again. The birds sing, the red-winged blackbirds and robins and turkey vultures have returned, the very first crocuses have bloomed and frozen. The sap and the rivers are running, but I am sitting inside with my coffee wondering just how much longer until I can get out in the gardens and start cleaning up your mess.
Here’s a poem about March I wrote in 2007 and have been modifying ever since. I think I may have it how I want it now.
Month of crows
Driven rain in slush-filled gutters
All the flotsam of winter’s rage—
Empty bags whipped in wheezing wind
Parking lot valleys in the shadows of
Mountains formed from filth and snow and abandoned shopping carts
The frail sun pretends to shine
A sudden squall and all is beaten down again
comes the green
comes the green
The sun shines stronger
the days grow longer
and all my fondest hopes of spring
see fulfillment in one blossoming