Spring Fever

Yesterday it was 78 degrees with powdery blue skies. We walked on the Cottonwood Trail and saw the bloodroot’s first bloom on our favorite March hillside. As an ephemeral early season wildflower, the bloodroot isn’t really flashy. It’s low to the ground. One white flower with a little yellow center accompanies the single, odd-shaped green leaf. They live in colonies but you can almost lose their shy display among the leaf litter.

Every year, seeing these flowers, the fever begins to seize me-spring fever. This year how can I possibly avoid spring fever after suffering through a week of freezing nights and dirty snow piled up all around?

There were other signs of the official approach of spring on the Cottonwood Trail-runners jogging in shorts, the first stirrings of green in the wetlands, the birds calling with a heightened urgency, and of course the din of spring peepers, cricket, chorus frogs, ready to get a jump on breeding season. These are all strands in the web, and they only fuel my fever.

This morning the fever translated to hope: I opened the window in the study but closed it again when I realized, fever or not, I was a little premature. It’s only 50 degrees.

Sure, spring is stirring out there along the creek, but it isn’t here quite yet. March 21st is the equinox, still two weeks away. I’ll try to open the window every morning. I’ll listen for a moment or two for more signs of approaching spring ready to overtake winter.

The way I’m talking about it makes a season sound like a train approaching in the distance, or a siren you hear far away, then listen as it comes closer.

Try as I will, I never see the passing seasons as points in a line, as an arrow flying into the distance, or as a flat horizon receding into the future. I see time as a circle rolling forever onward, and the seasons are the four equal points on the quadrants of the circle.

Because of the rounded nature of the year, seasons turn, and I simply turn with them. Many of us live where we live because we enjoy the distinct edges between the four quadrants of the turning year– summer, fall, winter, and spring. These are the names we in the temperate zone chart our turnings by.

But I know there are other ways of seeing spring approach. Some people track the changes in the year by religious holidays, fashion, or deadlines. For some Easter marks the turn from wool to seersucker. For others spring is fast upon us when we lose an hour to a peculiarly protestant invention, Daylight Savings Time. For others still, taxes are due soon after spring grabs the scene. But those like me always turn an eye to the more-than-human world.

When the first humans moved up and down this creek 10,000 years ago there was no Weather Channel, no World Wide Web to chart the temperature. They had to watch the land for signs. Like me, they looked for wildflowers and listened for the frogs in the low places. They knew something was stirring in the earth and things would soon be changing. They didn’t expect things to go on unchanged. They charted the change and lived with it, and learned to adapt when things did change.

Spring: it’s out there somewhere rolling toward me. I’ll catch the fever and change with it, and with my changes log another year’s return of warmth.

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