This I Believe: I Believe In Welcoming Spring

Mar 16, 2017

Essayist Sue Shaffner dressed as Mother Nature for the spring equinox.
Credit Sue Shaffner

I believe in welcoming spring.
I start early.
Hey, I know the calendar says that spring begins March 21st,
but at our house,
returning bluebirds are often the first sign of spring,
and they usually arrive the last week of February.
I greet them:
“I’m glad you’re back!
But WHAT are you THINKing?
Don’t you see all the SNOW?”

Soon the snowpack begins to melt,
exposing the stone wall, 
the raised beds, 
bits of scruffy lawn.
I stand in the grassy spots making tiny snowmen from handfuls of wet snow,
their stick hands raised in celebration... 
or surrender to impending doom. 
It’s hard to tell with snowmen.

In early March,
the thought of possums 
and raccoons 
turn to LOVE.
I can tell when they are in love
because they chase each other across the highways
and become the first road kill of the season.

In the spring,
the forsythia buds begin to swell
and I can’t wait.
I cut branches 
and put them in our sunny bay window
in my grandmother’s giant vase
and the branches bloom yellow,
weeks ahead of schedule.

On the official first day of spring, 
the equinox, 
I put on my long white Mother Nature dress from Goodwill 
and wave a forsythia branch over the globe’s equator
as students get off the buses.
"Today's the equinox!
Happy first day of spring!”

If geese fly over during recess,
kids slant behind my arms in a V shape
and we all honk and flap
our way back to class. 

My husband, Denny, and I have a coltsfoot contest every spring.
Coltsfoot is the first wildflower to bloom.
Cheekier than domestic snowdrops and crocuses,
coltsfoot pokes his sunny face up, not from the lawn, 
but from muddy roadsides.
First one to bring home a coltsfoot gets bragging rights.
The winning coltsfoot finds a place of honor 
in a tiny bottle on the kitchen windowsill.

The last week of March
I always wade to celebrate my spring birthday—
usually in the creek behind the house,
or as we say in central Pennsylvania,
the “crick” behind the house.
Cold! My feet curl up in protest
as I splash a few steps,
but, hey, it’s SPRING!

Turn up the heat and drive with the windows down!
Crank up Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring! 
Or Vivaldi! 
Or Brewer and Shipley!
“What a spirit spring is bringing ‘round my head—
makes me feel glad that I’m not dead!”

Every week is a new celebration—
The robins begin to broadcast their three-noted territorial calls—
“***Go away. ***This is mine. ***Girls come here.”

Peas and lettuce and spinach are planted 
when the soil feels like chocolate cake.

And did you hear that?
Stop the car!
Spring peepers!

I also stop at warming hillsides.
The leaves aren’t on the trees yet
and the sunny woods floor is filled with bloodroot,
trout lilies,
and trilliums.
Trillions of trilliums! 
At school, the playground has thousands of purple violets.
Hey kids! Science and snack at the same time!

In early May, 
the last spring celebration is Squirrel’s Ear Day--
it’s time to plant corn
when oak leaves are as big as a squirrel’s ear.
By the next week,
leaves shade the hillsides
and it begins to feel like summer.

But it’s not summer yet!
I invite you to
notice what is happening all around you. 

I believe in welcoming spring!