Bleeding hearts

The past few days have been wet, with weather that alternates between mist, drizzle, and outright rain. This morning was foggy and damp, and even now the trees are still dripping with moisture.

Lilacs

Drippy spring days when you can almost hear the grass greening always remind me of Genesis 2, where God plants a garden “in the east, in Eden,” where “no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth.” Eden is a paradise because it is lush and well-watered, with streams that “came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.”

In the midst of a lush spring, it’s easy to believe in an Edenic garden where there is no shortage of water and the plants all but water themselves.

Willow tree in bloom

Only after spring arrives and the trees burst into flower do I realize how much of the winter I’ve spent looking down. In winter, I trudge around in a bulky coat, hat, and scarf; on the coldest days, I top it all with a hood. Thus bundled, I keep my eyes down, my attention focused underfoot on the treachery of ice and snow. Like a mummy, my view of the world in winter is just a slit through swaddles.

Oak catkins and leaves

Spring sets my feet free in sandals, the sidewalks finally clear underfoot. In spring, you appreciate anew the miracle it is to walk the earth. In the spring, you don’t have to watch every step; in spring, your whole body feels as light as shirtsleeves. Walking at the end of an interminable winter feels like freedom, your ankles liberated from boots and the sinew-testing challenge of knee-deep snow drifts.

Dogwood flowers

Come summer, after the trees have finished leafing, their crowns will contain my view like a cap and I’ll look to the ground once again, searching for flowers and ground-creeping plants. But in early spring, the world’s inverted, with an ephemeral fury of flowers high overhead: blooms against blue.

Cloudy with a chance of magnolias

Between today’s classes at Framingham State, I pulled myself from my paper-piles to take a quick walk around the block, wandering into a residential neighborhood then circling back. Even during a short walk, it’s hard not to notice spring manifesting in the form of greening grass, blooming flowers, and lounging college students.

First dandelions and ground-ivy

It’s been chillier than usual this April: usually by now, I would have been besieged by students begging to have class outside, and I would have been hard pressed to say no. But so far this year, it’s been too chilly for that, and I’ve worn sandals chiefly out of principle, hating to revert back to socks, winter-weight tights, and shoes. But regardless of the temperatures, the flowers know that lengthening days mean spring, so they bloom despite the chill. After a season of snow, the sight of the earth erupting in dandelions seems nothing short of miraculous.

Emerging tulip leaves

I’m allergic to the dust, mold, and dead leaves that lie underneath the melting snow. Every spring when the snow starts to melt, my lungs react with chronic coughing and congestion. I love the liberation of early spring–a time when you can cast off coats and boots in favor of sandals and T-shirts–but my lungs do not agree, growing tight and wheezy at intermittent and unpredictable moments throughout the day.

Lone crocus

In early spring, my asthma inhaler is my best friend, giving almost instant relief every time I take a hit. In spring, I don’t venture far without an inhaler: I have one in my purse, another in a bedroom drawer, and others stashed throughout the house like nip bottles hidden by an alcoholic.

At some point later in the spring when fresh green growth has covered last year’s moldy leaves, I’ll be able to get through the day without coughing. But for now, my body reacts and rebels against the musty dust that emerges from underneath the season’s old snow.

I wrote this post during a five-minute timed freewrite in one of my Writing Workshop classes today, in response to the prompt “Underneath.”

Honeysuckle

While I was grading, the honeysuckles along our driveway bloomed, the backyard pine trees dusted my car with pollen, and the neighborhood tulips erupted in a multitude of colors. Warblers appeared in the trees, our resident catbird returned, and the backyard rabbits appeared as if out of nowhere, nibbling our finally green grass.

Honeysuckle

While I was grading, the season kept springing, the birds kept singing, and the green kept growing. Not a one of them waited a moment for me and my silly paper piles. Having submitted my last batch of semester grades, I feel momentarily dazed, as if returning from a planet made up of words, words, words. Emerging into my finally green backyard, I feel as if a heavenly hand should hand me one of those pink memo slips outlining all the important things that happened while I was out.

Peony-to-be

Every April-into-May while I’m preoccupied with the long, uphill push that invariably marks the end of the semester, something sly and subtle happens. While I’m busy with paper-piles and end-term grading, Spring somehow slips into Summer.

Honeysuckle - April 12 / Day 132

I know that the summer solstice doesn’t come until June, but I’m never fooled by what the calendar says. Something has shifted in the last week or so, with spring-green leaves ripening into a darker summer hue. The nights are warm rather than chilly now, and we sleep with the windows open. Already the leaves on our backyard hostas are tattered where rabbits have nibbled them, and our backyard tulips have dropped their petals, spent.

Wisteria

Already, in an instant, the neighborhood wisteria are hanging heavy with an abundance of blossoms, and the year no longer feels like a coil that is tightly wound, ready to spring. Instead, the season has sprung, and only a ripening of days stands between us and the fullness of summer: a transition so subtle, you’ll miss it if you blink.

Candy striped

One surefire sign of spring in the Boston suburbs is the emergence of curbside lemonade stands: something straight out of Norman Rockwell. Earlier today, J and I drove past a couple of kids who were trying to wave down passing cars on a busy street. One of them was wearing a rainbow-colored clown wig and waving a sign, but we were driving the wrong way and traffic was too heavy for us to stop. Last week I’d seen a different set of kids selling lemonade on this same busy street, but they were lucky enough to have set up their stand before a stop sign at rush hour, so they had a captive audience. But in that case, too, I was going the wrong way and wasn’t able to stop.

First rose

When we’re exploring our neighborhood on foot, though, J and I make a point to stop at lemonade stands: how can you walk past cute kids trying to sell something? Parents in our neighborhood tend to be civic-minded, so most of the kids we’ve encountered sell lemonade to raise money for charity. Over the years, we’ve sipped lemonade to raise money for the earthquakes in Haiti, the tsunami in Japan, and endangered tigers in Asia. At each makeshift stand, I can imagine the conversation that led to its creation, with a kid asking Mom or Dad what they can do to help some horrible situation they’ve seen on TV, and Mom or Dad suggesting a lemonade stand as a worthwhile pursuit. Think globally, sell lemonade locally.

So this afternoon when J and I were out walking and saw a couple of kids selling sparkling pink lemonade to raise money for tomorrow’s Walk for Hunger, we couldn’t say no. Instead, we bought a couple cups, helped the kids met their fundraising goal, and walked on, the ice-cold pink beverage in our cups matching the bright flowering hue of the Boston suburbs in May.

Pink and frilly