Signs of Spring

Most people in northern states consider the return of robins a harbinger of spring. I know I’m always excited when I see the first robin in March, but over the years I have discovered other signs of spring that I enjoy just as much. Don’t get me wrong; I love snow and skiing, but once it starts to warm up to the point that the snow is no good for skiing, I’m ready for it to go.

I saw/heard a few of my favorite signs of spring the other day. First was the rusty-gate song of the red-winged blackbirds. It’s not a particularly pretty song, but it makes me smile when I hear it.

Another sign is the sound of water trickling down the gutters of the house, and the drip, drip, drip off the eaves of the house. The sound of water burbling as it makes its journey is such a happy sound in the spring!

In Maine and other parts of New England, people call spring mud season, because as the snow melts, gravel driveways and lawns are a squishy, muddy mess. The smell of mud is another of my favorite signs of spring. Not the sour, pungent smell of a swamp, but the clean, sweet smell of moist clay. The smell transports me back to my elementary school days, when we would use the remaining snow to create pathways for the water running off the playground. I was a tomboy, so I was often the only girl in the group, but the boys didn’t care.

On my drive home from work last week, I saw pussywillows. I have been fascinated by them for as long as I can remember. Technically, the downy gray puffs are flowers of a sort, or catkins as botanists call them. I’m not sure if the plant got the name pussywillow because of the “cat”kins, or if it’s because they are soft and fluffy like a kitten’s fur. Whatever the reason, someday I want to live in a house that has pussywillows in the yard. Too bad the tree doesn’t look like much for the rest of the year.

As I was driving to work one morning last week, I saw a sight that made my jaw drop: a Sandhill crane in a field. They migrate through this area on their way to the shores of Lake Michigan and points north, but they don’t usually come through here until the snow is gone. This one was standing in the snow, presumably scavenging for seeds left over from the corn harvest. I felt a certain sympathy for the bird: I have often felt a bit out of place and on my own, standing in a field all by myself.

Finally, I did see a robin a few days ago. I was alone, but I still said, “Oooooh, the first robin!” aloud. Still a kid at heart, I guess!




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