It is March, and it is spring. Though it should not be. It is green when it should be white. It is wet when it should be ice. The world is awake and juicy and randy and alive, when it should be cold and chaste and dreaming.
This spring is all wrong. But oh! the green! And oh! the tender shoots! And oh! the swelling buds! And oh! Oh! Oh!
Spring does things to Minnesotans – secret things. We do not speak them out loud, but communicate them instead with impish eyes and tight lipped smiles and dark, deep silences. Spring has come early. And so it is early that we reveal our wintered skin. It is early that we run our fingers over seed catalogs and inhale the damp scent of peat moss and mushroom compost and lime. It is early that we sink our fingers into the cool dirt, rubbing the clay with our palms.
It is too, too early. And we are worried.
It is a strange feeling to be worried about spring and still be moved by spring. We are a cold-climate people. We understand the value of winter. We know what winter does. We know how to keep our families going with last year’s potatoes and squash and onions from the root cellar. We know how to make anything into a stew. We know the value of dried herbs and casked beer and braided strands of garlic stalks hung from the rafters. We know how to cheer ourselves with dried fish and hard cheese and honey straight from the pot. When spring comes early, our work is for naught. And when spring comes early, we worry about a killing heat and a merciless drought and next year’s harvest.
We who live at the mercy of the weather are professional worriers.
Still, worried or not, there is something precious about spring.
The trees in my back yard are lousy with birds. A fat, bright cardinal is, even now, giving me the stink-eye. His beak is full of sticks and grass. He would like to build his nest on the ledge outside my desk window but he can’t – or won’t. I am, apparently cramping his style. How, really, can he put the moves on his ladyfriend when I’m sitting there, typing away like some kind of bird pervert. I’m an ornithological voyeur.
Earlier today, I went running along Minnehaha Creek and around Lake Nokomis and the swampy lagoon on the other side of the bridge. (in shorts!) (without a jacket!) (a miracle!) I love that lagoon. The trail is lumpy and uneven and the mud is rank with life and animals abound. Today, it was almost like a children’s book. On my run I saw
- One white egret, tiptoeing through the mud and
- Two red winged black birds, bits of their house hanging from their mouths and
- Three baby foxes, blinking their eyes and
- Four loud mallards, fighting over a female and
- Five small children, wrestling in the mud.
My window is open (in March!) and I am, even now, serenaded by birdsong. I will pray that next year we will be back to normal. I will pray for abundant rains and rational heat indexes and a summer free of crazy storms that destroy neighborhoods or forests or farms. I will pray that this strange spring is not a harbinger of certain doom. I will forget everything I know about global climate change and the irrevocable harm that my people have done to the planet.
And instead, I will treasure the spring. I will offer a toast to the courting birds who are, even now, opening their throats with songs of passion and sex and ardent love. I will raise my glass to them and sing their praises.
Because even if this is the early notes of the apocalypse, I’m glad the birds are getting lucky. Hell, maybe we all should do the same.