The search for spring
Spring is a magician. A sort of “now you see it, now you don’t” kind of swindler. My case in point: the diminutive snowdrop flowers that appeared in my lawn in fearless, full bloom on March 1 that then disappeared under the drifts of all that March snow we endured.
That is until this week, when, voilà, they reappeared, upright and in full bloom once again.
I took a walk to search for spring this past week. It was a cold and windy day, and my quest led me through the woods that usually, by this time of April, are filled with the first spring wildflowers. Not so this year, however. Here, there is not even the bright sunshine of coltsfoot flowers lining the roadsides. Not yet.
I looked for the beginning shoots of wild leeks but they are not there. Not yet. There was the whispering noise of the withered beech leaves. The yellowed, papery leaves are last year’s foliage, which stay attached to the tree’s branches through the winter until the new growth appears (an occurrence called marcescence). I had to watch my step to maneuver the tangle of tree branches brought down by the winter’s storms and a recent logging job.
This winter we had some logging done in order to salvage what we could from the ash trees, which could soon be devastated by the emerald ash borer. The green, jewel–like beetle is native to Asia and feeds on ash species. The invasive pest has proven to be highly destructive to ash in Europe and North America and has led many local landowners to cut ash stands.
As I walked these old haunts, I thought back to the American elm, nearly eradicated in the early 20th century by Dutch elm disease, a fungus that was spread by elm bark beetles. And I wonder how the local woodlands are going to change due to this new threat.
On my way home, a few geese honked in the sky, flying north—a heartening and sure sign of spring’s return. And when I stopped by my garden, I found the red, fisted leaves of rhubarb bursting from the soggy ground. Blackbirds were gobbling the seed at the feeder and singing their raucous songs.
So yes, spring is here playing us with a disappearing act. While we are waiting for the season to show itself in full warmth and color, we can take hope in the blackbird’s song and the rhubarb’s shoots and in the delicate, but durable blooms of the snowdrop.