Suddenly Spring.

March 2, 2011 § 15 Comments

Winter comes on slowly in Tallahassee.  No splashy show of leaf-turn here.

With few exceptions, like the flaming reds of the Bradford Pears (natives of China and Korea), and the bright yellows of our native dogwoods, leaves become mottled, like the backs of an old man’s hands, and then fall.  This quiet dimming of the colors makes our winter more like a prolonged Autumn.

But this Winter, an unusually hard one, has been worthy of the name.  The collards and kale in our Winter garden have grown little, their leaves held close as if the plants were trying to stay warm.  Feeling sorry for them, we haven’t eaten many greens.

Heating our house we’ve gone through an unprecedented four cords of wood.  Again and again the bird bath has frozen solid.  Starting tomato, pepper and eggplant seeds for the summer garden has been an act of faith.  We have been bone-cold for so long I had begun to lose hope that Spring would ever come.

Then  last week, as if a switch had been thrown, it did.  Unlike the drawn-out unfolding of Fall, Spring is a sudden season here in the south. Robins pour through my neighborhood.  Mating hawks tumble free-fall from the sky.  As they do every spring, violets carpet the shoulder of the road in front of my neighbor Becky’s house.  The narcissus have come and gone in a handful of days.

Where I grew up in New York and New Jersey Autumn tore through the landscape with the speed of a brush fire.

It was Spring that took its time.

Desperate to reach the end of winter, my mother would send my sister, brother and me out to look for it.  She set a bounty for the first violet, the first robin.  The prize for each was a cake.  The first violet had to be picked and turned in as proof.  For the first robin we just had to say we’d seen one.  My siblings and I were highly skeptical of each other’s sightings, but my mother staunchly believed us.   For claiming to see something we were pretty sure had a red breast she would bake us the cake of our choice.

Daffodils followed, and forsythia (our yard was guarded by a forsythia hedge that stood at least eight feet high).  Spring brought new Easter outfits which always included a ridiculous pastel straw hat (hats were still mandatory in the Catholic Church) and the first taste of chocolate after the long season of giving-it-up for Lent.

Here, the stately procession of spring is more like a quick sprint.  As I sit at this computer I have to remind myself, go outside, quit being a clock-driven human.  There may be no cake for the first violet anymore, but this year in particular, we have earned the violets, the chatter of  robins, the forgotten warmth of sun on skin.

The season will not wait for us to have the time to visit it.  A long hot summer is already treading on its heels.  Quick, open your door.

Walk outside.

Do it right now.

Click to enlarge and read.

My poem, “Spring” was published in Princeton High School’s literary magazine, “The Rag,” when I was a Sophomore. 

At the time I was under the poetic influence of e.e. cummings. 

Click on the poem if you would like to enlarge and read it.

Meanwhile, here is the original e.e., making poetry out of the same scrap of green:





Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and
changing everything carefully
spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and from moving New and
Old things,while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and
without breaking anything.





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§ 15 Responses to Suddenly Spring.

  • craig reeder says:

    like your poem better than e.e.’s


  • Spring in Texas always began with the redbud in bloom. Next the wildflowers peaked out and stood tall – bluebonnets in March and April, pinks, pinwheels, and gallardia in May and on and on. And the spring morning, walking to school, so fresh and clean and clear.

    Texas winters weren’t pretty – no leaves and no snow, just dull gray land and a clear blue sky – but spring always bounced in with an energy I will never get tired of remembering. Oh, those robins you looked for in NJ? They wintered in our backyard!

    Mary Lois


  • White dogwood blooms in the courtyard of our school were my signal of spring in Western North Carolina. We moved unstructured Study Halls from the hallway floors or the library or the gym out into the open warmth of that courtyard. The rock steps soaked up the sun’s heat while the grass was cool beneath our feet. Spring meant warmth and freedom and movement.

    When the leaves turned purple and the berries came, we knew winter was not far off. In junior high (what they now call middle school), we stripped handfuls of those berries to bomb at each other as we darted between the trees. In high school, we cursed the JH’ers for stripping the berries and for creating a mess and a ruckus while we enjoyed the fall sun, reading Kurt Vonnegut on the courtyard steps. We spent every break between class, every Study Hall, every lunchtime in that courtyard relishing each second before the cold confined us again.


  • My favorite holiday has always been Easter. This is not only because of all the chocolate. And it’s most definitely not because of all the layers of itchy underwear we were forced to don. Mostly I love Easter because I live in the south, where spring comes early. Wake up on Easter morning here, and you not only get a basket and stuffed bunny, you get a mother earth sprung open with celebration. And she doesn’t just dress up, she smells wonderful.

    The one Easter I spent up in Connecticut was cold and windy. Even with a full sun and a cloudless sky, outside still felt like the middle of lent.


    • Easter was always an iffy proposition up north. We usually got to wear our new Spring coats to church, but sometimes the wind cut through the thin fabric and stole the Easter bonnets right off our heads.

      Easter has always been Josie’s favorite holiday too.


      • I remember those spring coats. They were made out of some kind of silk linen, usually in a pale pink or mint green.

        Springs grew warmer by the time we had our own daughters. Global warming or natural cycle, we haven’t worn so much as a sweater to Easter mass in decades. The layers of itchy underwear still remain, but at least we’ve managed to lose the corsets.


  • Tgumster says:

    Growing up in the Rocky Mountain West of over a mile high and wide, there were few springs and almost none without snow. Mostly, we had 60-day summers, lingering falls and winters that blew long and hard.

    This year, I suspect, there will be a rare springtime in the Rockies where wildflowers go wild, prairies turn green with moisture and it actually rains on April flowers but that’s a ways off yet.

    I am grateful for my past ten springs in the South; warmly, I wish the West well.


    • You make me feel sorry for the west–and at the same time want to be there to see that rare, profuse show of Spring flowers.

      Like you I am grateful for the warm, damp, reliably profligate Springs of the South.


      • Tgumster says:

        My last response really nags; I’ve been unfair but honest.

        My beloved Wyoming–just a sprawling, empty high plains desert–is a harsh mistress. Literally, her rock faces are wind-blown and water-smoothed, the forgotten land of fossil fishes. Always, I am reminded that she and Florida were teeming inland seas once and some say will be once again.

        Certainly, some sort of spring comes to Wyoming every year–sometimes overnight, like the chinook that sweeps out the snows–it is a silent, sudden spring, gone almost before it arrives, so very much like Santa Claus.

        Yes, Adrian, there is a western spring every year.


  • Now you really make me want to spend time in Wyoming. The power of words–and you use them so beautifully.

    This blog is like a fishing trip. I chum the waters, throw out a baited line and wait for a bite. The fish I catch are much bigger than that little bit of bait I toss out. Thanks to all of you who take the time to leave your stories, memories, and evidence of your own particular gift with the English language.


  • […] Note: Here is a post about an earlier spring.  […]


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