I lunched on the patio with my friend Minerva today. In spring I often take my lunch outside so I can watch what’s happening in the woods. Minerva joined me from the safe distance of the compost heap. She sat up, and holding it with her front paws, nibbled on a stalk of celery while I quietly sipped my ice tea, so as not to frighten her away. Minerva is a groundhog. Tim and I laughed aloud a few weeks ago when we saw her abscond with half a head of red cabbage from the heap. We suspect she has, or very soon will have, a family to support. Home is under our backyard shed. She has gotten very brave in the recent past, and wandered across the patio, stopping only long enough, and I swear I am not making this up, to stand on her hind feet and reach up and put her arms around the neck of the concrete goose stationed there.
That is why I am a watcher. The view out each window is ever changing. Neighbors probably think I’m Mrs. Kravitz, famed busybody from the television show Bewitched. The binoculars could be a bit off-putting, I suppose. But, I’m not keeping track of them, I’m wildlife watching. A lot is happening this time of year, and it happens quickly. Migratory songbirds may only stop for a day or two on their way to summer breeding and nesting grounds, and spring flowering trees are putting on a breathtaking display that only lasts a few days.
The birds sing, accompanying me as I work. The juncos have disappeared as quietly as they arrived in the fall. White crowned and white throated sparrows are here for a few days. An eastern wood phoebe woke me in the morning, calling insistently outside the bedroom window before it was fully light. The spring peepers’ plaintive song has faded away and been replaced by the nighttime trilling of toads and the calls of tree frogs. Warm evening breezes gently lift the curtains by the windows, and it’s hard to believe the frost-free date won’t arrive for three weeks.
From now until the middle of June is my favorite season, and for so many reasons. There is the sense of renewal brought about by the explosion of green, growing things. I find myself thinking of excuses to just go outside and stand there in the warm, gentle air. Observers may find it weird that I slowly walk around the yard, staring at the ground, but as plants push up out of the warming earth, every day there is something new. Sometimes, as I search for a plant that I know was there last year, I feel as if I am literally willing them, mentally urging them to emerge from the ground. The first sniff of newly mown grass is perfume and I close my eyes and inhale deeply. This is activity is recommended for home, rather than when driving past a freshly cut lawn.
The well-orchestrated riot of blooming and blossoming commences with delicate spring beauties. They pop up, a few in the lawn here, some under a tree there, and spread in great swaths in other places. Wild flowers such as trillium, wood violet, and trout lily shyly push through the thick layer of last year’s oak and hickory leaves, and Mayapples open their leafy umbrellas. The daffodils are still cheerily in bloom and Muscari, or grape hyacinth, has spread all over our yard, to the point where they border on being weeds. But there are so many our grandson may pick as many as he wants to present to whomever he feels is worthy of his little floral gifts.
The trees are putting on quite a show as all up and down our street flowering crabapples and pears, and redbuds are splashing a profusion of sweet pink, soft rose, and lacy white hues in an Impressionist landscape. The serviceberries we planted last summer came through their first winter and did not disappoint. Soon their small white petals will flutter down, and be followed by red berries in June. We have been working hard at eliminating the invasive Japanese honeysuckle that is rampant in the understory in the woods, and replacing them with trees and shrubs like serviceberry, dogwood, redbud, and other naturally occurring varieties.
At last I can dig in the dirt again. The most difficult aspect of gardening and landscaping is to stay on task. I can begin raking dead leaves out of the shrubs by the front porch, then notice that something interesting is poking out of the mulch across the way, and I’m off to find out what it is. From there, I remember something I need from the garden shed and head to the backyard. Once I fight my way into the little barn that is packed with firewood, lawn implements, gardening tools, and all the other miscellany that winds up in there over the winter, I forget what I was doing and what I came out there for in the first place. But, it doesn’t matter. It’s spring!
By nightfall, I’m smudged with dirt and sweat and am a little pinkened by the sun. It’s time to fix supper already and I trudge into the house with an entire new set of aches, and having just tucked the last plant in the herb garden, a pleasant sense of satisfaction.