It’s sights like this one that make the long winter months worth it. I’ve never lived in a climate that was warm all year; in both Ohio and now New Hampshire, spring flowers like this Wake-robin (Trillium erectum, also known as Purple or Red Trillium) were on hand to reward those who survived winter’s snow and ice. Wake-robin would be beautiful to behold any time of year…but its delicate, thin leaves and perfectly formed yellow stamens seem even more poignant when you consider the freezes it withstood, embryonic, simply to sprout in spring.
There’s a certain touching awkwardness in the slow unfurling that is spring. I’ve seen many photos of spring fiddleheads…but the sight I love is that moment when their tightly-wound curls start to unwind into tiny chlorophyll-pumping fronds. At what moment does Fiddlehead become Fern? We all know the pleasure of a good long stretch after having sat cramped and sedentary for a spell; can we imagine the joy of ferny unfurling after a long winter underground, the joy of gradually opening a fist of tightly clenched frond-fingers?
Spring is an expansive time, the season of literal inspiration. After living tightly bundled for months, those of us who live in northern New England are unwrapping and emerging, exposing tender toes and milk-white arms to a sun they haven’t seen in months. There’s a certain touching awkwardness in that moment when winter clothes get shed for spring. Spring feels like an emotional as well as physical emergence, a time when gray gloomy moods dissipate into the light of day. Winter eyes look down, watching one’s step as hats and hoods shelter and hide one’s head from cruel cold. Spring eyes look about unhindered, head held erect into the thrill that is a warm, gentle breeze.
In spring, nearly anything seems possible. All winter long, pointy beech buds have marked the ends of twigs like tiny orange cigars. In spring, these tight tips elongate and droop pendant, their scales expanding telescopically around the lengthening scrap of green that will be leaf. In a world where tightly compact buds transform seemingly overnight into tender greenery, can anything be impossible? How tough must a bud be to withstand winter’s frigid chill, and how remarkable the change from insensate scale to life-brimming foliage!
Flowers, ferns, and leaves aren’t the only things to emerge of late. On Friday while walking the dog at Goose Pond, I saw the first of the season’s black flies newly emerged from aquatic pupation. When they first emerge, black flies swarm but do not yet bite, so Friday might have been the last spring hike I’ll take without the benefit insect repellent and (yes) mosquito netting. In the yin-yang that is nature, one thing emerges and another goes into hiding. Tender exposed flesh is mighty tasty to egg-laying black flies, so bite-sensitive creatures like me do best to keep it covered during the buggy month of May.