I’ve lived in many places, but never as long as I’ve lived here. When you have as much cumulative history in a place as I do in Indiana, you begin to acquire an awareness of the rhythms of the seasons. That is, if you’re a person who notices such things.
Spring has a slow, multi-staged arrival here in central Indiana. The first inkling of its approach usually comes in late February, on a day which holds the intangible sense that winter’s icy grip has cracked. I can’t describe the precise markers of the shift, or what it is that makes it feel that way. It may be a change in the light, or dripping eaves, or the way snow looks when its days are numbered. But one day I will walk outside and know, instinctively, that winter has passed its sell-by date.
The two seasons will spend the next month in silent combat, as winter slowly learns to surrender to inevitability, with the help of an insistent and Zen-like spring. Tiny crocuses pop out over winter’s objection, sometimes through a layer of last-ditch protest snow. Then one morning in early April, I will wake to the sound of birdsong for the first time in months. Some migratory birds have returned, and the year-round residents are no longer hoarding their energy to make it through sub-freezing temperatures. Everyone in the trees is talking and socializing before dawn.
Then the trees explode into flower. During this time we may have warm days, but we will have many chilly mornings when the steam rises from the pond to meet the approaching sunshine. The redbud trees blossom, and their magenta flowers contrast sharply with the iridescent green that has popped out in the understory. The landscape seems flamboyantly gorgeous, almost a bit of a show-off. I’m okay with this. There is a new seasonal sheriff in town, and I like her.
Even the dog – perhaps especially the dog – has noticed the world has changed. When let out in the morning he forgets to pee at first, electing to sit on the steps near the brush pile, watching his newly animated surroundings.
Sometime in late April, the green of new leaves overtakes the many colorful flowers on the trees, and they look amusingly ragged for a time. Then in May the warm rains come, and green sweeps over the land. Sometimes there’s an opportunity for a nighttime walk, after the showers have stopped but the trees are still dripping, and it feels like the world is speaking to me.
Spring closes, giving way to the intensity of summer, with dumb bunny season. This is the brief time when this year’s crop of rabbit kits is nearing adolescence, with the potent blend of overconfidence and inexperience that phase entails. Oblivious young bunnies will sit in the middle of the road as if contemplating the mysteries of the universe; they will approach my dog; they will stare at me insolently when I stumble upon them, instead of running away like any self-respecting rabbit. I want to lecture them on the dangers of the world – and often have, only to receive a quizzical, unafraid stare in return. I don’t know how any of them survive, but I suspect luck and numbers have something to do with it.
I doubt my lectures have any effect.
Most of the time there are places I would rather be; other topographies and landscapes that seem to fit me better; but not at this time of year. Springtime is a bit of grace that arrives every year, a deep kind of geographical contentment that otherwise eludes me. It’s a fleeting period that makes me want to stop and hold on with the same kind of urgency I feel when I realize my son’s childhood is two-thirds gone. But I can’t, so my only choice is to live deeply in the present moment, with the birds and the dogs and the bunnies.