March 20, 2013 —
I walked out to find the spring and found it in the radiant pussy willows growing at the road edges of our old farm, tangled in the hedgerow of last year’s multiflora roses and grape vine. Spring is in the snow drops budded at my front door and in the nervous sunlight. The seasons engage in a tussle of one-upmanship that brings new snow one day and thaw the next. And so, although we don’t see it in green yet, spring is here. Winter is left to lick its wounds in the exultant mud.
My daughter and I walked in the warm wind down our mud-slicked road last Sunday to the stream that borders our neighbor’s property. She still calls it “Anthony’s stream” after our friend Anthony Connelly who lived nearby. It was our destination nearly every spring morning when my kids were small.
She brought a net along even though I told her that it is not yet time to find frogs or salamanders. But it came to good use as a scoop to throw clots of old snow into the rushing water.
Although we rarely come here anymore, this visit was witness to the changing season and the excitement it brings. And it felt like a kind of tug-of-war between my daughter’s childhood and the adult she is growing into. We sat on the cold rocks and recalled the crayfish she and her brother caught here on the creek bed’s stony bottom. She remembers with delight how, once when they were wading here, their father (with a lot of mock shrieking) latched a crayfish onto his nipple. They kept on with this as a game of endurance.
The kids sailed boats here. They also sent them through the culvert under State Rte. 97 from the swamp on the other side of the road. And when the boats got stuck, they duck-walked under the road through the culvert to fish them out. They built dams and jumped from slimy rock to slimy rock in pursuit of frogs with their nets. We had sunny, soaking wet times.
Now, it is not only my children who are changing but the stream itself, as much of the wooded hillside has been cleared to bring more space and light to our new neighbors. We are no longer under the eaves of hemlocks at the stream’s edge. Still we sat surrounded by the evergreen Christmas fern that grows in clusters as if it is lapping down the hillside. I recalled the spot where the jack-in-the-pulpit will return this spring on the moist bank by the culvert.
We didn’t stay at our old haunt for long, but on our way home we once again picked and caressed the outing flannel-like leaves of last year’s mullein flowers that remained soft and green in the dirt-crusted and melting snow. Wind to our backs, we walked up the roadside, which will soon be filled with yellow coltsfoot.