Jerry Nelson: Rejoice, for spring has finally arrived
Winter has finally left the building after overstaying its welcome by approximately 847 days.
The fever of cold has at last broken. Over the past few days, gigatons of snow have been transformed from solid to liquid, with gigatons more to go. Geese and songbirds have followed the snowmelt as it marched northward, swarms of birds eager to recolonize what was, until very recently, a sterile and colorless landscape.
It was so snowy for so long in this neck of the woods that many of us were popping champagne corks at the first sighting of bare ground. A neighbor sent me a Snapchat of his first flower of spring. It was just a dandelion, but at this point we will take whatever we can get.
Our dog, Bella, experienced her first vernal equinox last spring. We were taking our daily constitutional last April when we espied a pair of Canada geese in our east field. Bella was curious about the interloping aliens, so we strolled out to get a closer look.
When we got to within about thirty yards of them, the honkers decided that we were close enough, so they spread their enormous wings and whooshed up into the sky. This unexpected development startled Bella. She bolted back toward the house wearing an expression that seemed to say, “Holy cow, did you see how big those things are? You’re on your own here, buddy!”
It’s an entirely different story this spring. During a recent daily walk, Bella spotted a gaggle of geese and immediately shot out toward them like a furry black bullet. The honkers quickly took flight, rising into the air like black and grey versions of 747 jetliners.
Bella came trotting back to me, proud of her decisive victory over her erstwhile tormentors. The look on her face said, “Did you see that, Dad? I really showed them, didn’t I?”
Easter is a peripatetic holiday, wandering back and forth on the calendar, following an obscure ancient formula that involves the position of the sun in the sky and the phases of the moon. It appears that all of our atomic clocks and GPS gizmos don’t hold much sway in the grand scheme of things.
A timeworn farmer’s proverb goes, “Early Easter, early spring.” I have never actually checked the accuracy of that old saying. This year’s Easter is on the late-ish side, and spring was definitely late, so maybe there is some truth to it.
My aunt Naomi insisted that a person needed to plant their garden’s root crops on Good Friday. This might have been theoretically possible this year, but only if I hired an industrial snowblower to clear out the towering snowbank that occupied our garden. And a jackhammer to carve a furrow in the frozen dirt for the carrot and the radish seeds.
There are few greater pleasures than taking a stroll in the country on the first truly warm spring day. The air is filled with the aroma of warming soil along with the voices of songbirds who are fervently burbling their soothing tunes.
For me, the surest sign of spring is hearing the song of a meadowlark.
The springtime when I was in first grade, my sister Diann and I were walking home from our one-room schoolhouse when a nearby meadowlark began to warble.
“That’s a weather bird,” Diann stated authoritatively. “He’s singing, ‘It’s going to be real nice today.’”
It was a very nice day, so I took Diann’s pronouncement as gospel. I continue to think that’s what the weather bird, um, I mean, the meadowlark is singing to us.
As I write this, the twin culverts south of my parents’ farmstead are getting a vigorous workout. Meltwater that began its journey miles away is rushing through the galvanized steel tubes, rinsing out any dust or possums that may have accumulated in them over the past few years.
This is a gratifying sight. It’s normal for this rivulet of icy water to spill across our land for a few days each spring before disappearing until the next snowmelt. It’s good to know that the cycle of the seasons is holding its course.
It’s also good to be able to walk outdoors without wearing the entire clothing inventory of a major department store. It feels somewhat naughty to go without a cap or gloves or even – dare I say it? – an insulated jacket.
Our garden is still smothered by a snowbank. But I have faith that the day will soon come when I will be out there chopping weeds and cursing the heat and the mosquitoes.
Spring has arrived! And hope springs eternal.
If you'd like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at Workman.com and at booksellers everywhere.