Spring, and warmth, and the sun shone for days with bewitching clarity. Trees offered tender leaves like babies’ palms. Flowers unfurled their love to bumblebees. And clouds of pollen covered all and every thing, infinite infinitesimal golden grains like so many sins choking the earth’s promise. Now the rain that fell last month as desperate cold has come again in peace to washed away the amber stain, and the wet green resonates in the crackling air. The spring transforms the rains, and the rain transforms the season.
The redbud lurks all year at the edge of the woods, quiet and unassuming. He wakes with the dawn, puts on his business foliage, kisses his wife the dogwood goodbye, heads off to his office in the understory and shades the brambles in a comfortable deep green. He keeps to himself. He doesn’t make any trouble. Then once a year in spring he leaps forth possessed like a prophet from the roadside, shrieking magenta jubilation to all who will listen. He mocks the elegance of cherries, shouts down buntings and cardinals, drowns the murmur of violets. His words fall like rain upon the grass and are forgotten, and reluctantly he settles into another year. He goes again about his business, a model citizen of the woods. Biding his time.
For what one hopes is the last freeze of winter. At dawn the air still crackles wickedly, but its echoes fade with the night, and as the sun clears the spiderweb treetops the bite of morning dulls into a muddy coolness that grows more distant by the hour. The day takes command so pompous and full of itself that you begin to think winter this time has truly gone. The thought comes oddly bittersweet, as if an annoying and detested roommate has finally moved out, one whose departure you longed for, prayed for, crossed off each calendar day until and beyond his promised leaving, and now in the reverberation of the closing door you fear you may miss him after all. But in the silence of his absence you hear the birds singing, and a little breeze ruffles the grass, and you find you have forgotten him already. You hope, this time, for good.
For streams in a hurry to get to the river on the first day of spring. Swollen from the lackadaisical trickles of summer, awakened from the chilly slumber of winter, reborn from the endless rains of March, they rush along muddy slopes and cascade gleefully over ridges, leaping rocks, bubbling, laughing, gleeful, silly. In an awful hurry. To get to the river — and then what? To join the river’s double-time march to the sea? To roll down the slow-eroding plains to the sea, to be dismembered and disappear into the great waters of the earth? Slow down, just a little, maybe. Life is shorter than you think.
For feral flowers gone a-ramble over roots and moss, from the tumbledown stones of a life’s foundation. From the mossy bones of a house that must once have been tidy, must once have been kept tidy by her who planted the bulbs whose blooms return each year long after her own has faded from the earth. A streak of gold in the slow-greening woods, a proud adornment to a modest house. Now in defiance of all sense and logic the adornment outlives the adorned, and by the grace of God and springtime has come to pay its respects. Flowers that mark the grave of a life, of lives once made and joined and shared. Of a way of life gone from this place, and too quickly by us forgotten. The earth remembers.
For the crocus, baptized by mud, rising quiet through the dark earth and into the light, green shoots in the winter’s first waning, unnoticed for the shivering. Blooming now as the frost gives way in Lenten purple and Easter white. And gold: You did not know they blossomed in gold. Are there more colors? you asked. I said that if there are I have not seen them, but I would not presume to limit the palettes of God and horticulture. I would not presume to define the crocus.