by Sheila Newman, FPUPC Earth Stewards Committee
How long, oh Lord? How long must we wait for spring? After the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic with its colossal disruption of everyday life, the pervasive sense of loss and sorrow and the normal stresses of wintry cold and darkness, the longing for spring makes us more and more impatient for a change in season.
Do not despair. As I write, there have been a few warm days and temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s are already lifting spirits. The big snows of February have mostly melted and every day is a few minutes longer than the day before. Though we take for granted and are blessed by the quality of the light in our region, it is special. Northeastern light has an edge that sharply focuses the shapes of the natural world. The Hudson River School of painting celebrates that quality. And the changing angle of the earth to the sun also marks the coming of spring. As the angle changes, culminating in the vernal equinox, the very rotation of our universe is a subliminal feature of the experience of winter’s departure.
Perhaps you may have noticed the rosy hue in the canopy of the Maples? Or seen Snow
Drops, Aconite or Scilla gracing a neighbor’s yard or your own? Many early reproducing species flower before they produce their seasonal leaf. Budding, too, declares the rebirth of spring among many different bushes; Rhododendron, Forsythia, Lilacs and Pussy Willow to name a few shrubs that announce life will soon be fuller and more attractive. If you cannot wait for them to flower, cut a branch or two of Forsythia or Pussy Willow and force the bloom by simply providing a vase and water.
There is joy in the Siberian Iris near my back door poking their stalks through the cold soil. In sheltered locations Crocus, Hyacinth and Daffodils are foolishly starting their annual display. These plants will endure through harsh conditions of March or April when snow and ice are not uncommon. They produce something akin to antifreeze that protects them from winter’s last gasps. Best of all, deer do not dine on Daffodils.
As perennial plantings speak to the coming of spring, so too does the birds’ return from winter homes. Among the birds that are year-round residents, there is a great increase in activity. The burst of energy comes from an increase in food supply and the onset of the mating season. Welcome the prospect of spring by enjoying opportunities for migratory bird sightings and the annual Cornell Ornithology Backyard Bird count. It is a great time to get to meet and greet the birds living outside our windows.
Animals also provide sensory evidence of the change in seasons. Many awaken from long naps. The telltale smell of skunks is one marker. And it is so much fun to watch the local squirrels gadding about. It’s a bit less cheerful to take note of the young mammals who committed suicide crossing our roads. Pregnant deer taking their ease are a feature of many landscapes both urban and rural. I share a city neighborhood herd of as many as 12 deer. The signs of another generation about to be born are part of spring’s coming arrival.
Of course, we who live in the Northeast know there may be more snow and cold before old man winter departs once and for all. All the more reason to enjoy the many signs that are prelude to spring. And please take a moment to share your signs of spring with the Earth Stewards Committee. We are eager to know all the ways our environment impresses members of the Freedom Plains United Presbyterian Church in noticing the coming of Spring. You can send your signs of spring, in words or photos, to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.
Earth Stewards Committee
Photo credit to Mike Pike for the woodpecker holes, daffodil, and dogwood buds, and Ruth Sheets for the rhododendron buds.