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Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Spring comes late to the northern plains. The fields have been clothed in drab for months. As spring struggles to free herself from winter’s icy grip that struggle has been known to linger almost into early June.

            The eventual conqueror that she is, spring breaks forth in all her glory with an assault on the senses. One of Robert Browning’s sonnets begins, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Forgive the personification, but here is how much I love spring.

            In spring life stirs. The Great Outdoors takes on verve and vitality. Forgotten sounds of kids playing outside, lawn mowers mowing, birds singing and rotor tillers tilling all signal the cycle of the seasons. All life displays a new zest for living.

            Plants revive themselves bearing flowers in celebration of spring. Lilacs, white and purple and lavender, will soon cover their bushes adding fragrance to the air. Tulips, pale columbines and the ever-sprightly daisies will soon grace gardens.

            Plants aren’t the only life to break forth into joy. As if in competition with the flowers, the startling colors of goldfinches and house finches complement the flowers. Young life abounds among the critters. From calves to kittens to fledglings in nests, there is exhilaration in just being alive. A neighbor’s cat will deliver a full troupe of kittens. Robins will guard their eggs. Along the highways and in the coulees, deer will nibble tender shoots of new grass as mamas proudly nurse their fawns. Energy of life abounds.

            The gentle breeze (not wind!) inspires a stroll. A walk to the post office to pick up mail wearing jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt feels good. Six weeks ago people would bundle up -- or not gone out at all.

            At one point on the walk, a killdeer lands on the road to the front and commences to run keeping a few paces ahead. With a “Deeeee de de” he challenges a foot race. In all likelihood he will pick up speed as if being chased and then fly off. Rising into the air with a “Dedededede” he knew all along it was a joke.

            Soon, from the fields near a railroad, the scent of freshly turned earth will impress itself indelibly on the mind. Then, reluctantly, it will give way to the pungent odor of creosote along the railroad tracks. Days before crews will have off-loaded railroad ties in preparation for summer’s work. Drawing from the sun’s warmth, the inanimate ties will impose an acrid aroma, a rather obtuse forth telling of spring.

            Gardens will soon be in various states of readiness. Even for people who are not veggie fans, it’s hard to refuse fresh garden produce. It is way too early for produce with one exception. Rhubarb, an early spring riser, will be just right for pies and sauces.

            Predictable rain will come just in time to water the freshly seeded earth giving drink to the plants that will be. The pastures eventually will be green and growing offering competition to the crocuses that preceded them. In late spring haying may start if the grass is ready for cutting. Haying brings with it the sweet scent of fresh cut grass and clover. The third week in June will see the end of spring and the official start of summer, but it’s still spring to me.

            Speaking of haying, I remember one recent spring I was mowing the lawn and noted a King Bird watching my every move. With each pass she grew bolder and I knew what she was looking for. Misjudging my intentions, or possibly overcome with desire for a tasty bug, she jumped from a branch directly in front of my mower. No sooner had she made her move than she saw the error of her way and veered off. Not at all intimidated, she loitered overhead eventually settling down on the lawn as I headed for the far side of the yard.

            Before you know it, almost as an afterthought, spring will meld into summer. Robert Browning captured the essence of spring in the brief words of “Pippa’s Song.”

“The year’s at the spring, And day’s at the morn;

Morning’s at seven; The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;

The lark’s on the wing; The snail’s on the thorn;

God’s in His heaven -- All’s right with the world!”

            I do love spring.


Dennis M. Patrick can be contacted at P. O. Box 337, Stanley, ND 58784 or (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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