I wear old shoes when I walk, because I can’t bring myself to break in the new ones that are now over a year old and still pristine, though finally out of their box. But spring is a time for old shoes, for meandering through mud and puddle, and getting dirty and wet and absolutely reveling in it. My dog and I went rambling today, and found enough mud and puddle to satisfy even him.
Ah yes, spring has sprung once again, and though she comes around every year, this maiden of the seasons, still it feels like a miracle after all the months of old man winter holding court and lording it over us.
I can feel it, the great tidal symphony building underground in root and soil, ready to race in green-silver notes up through the trees and shrubs and hedging, flushing every blade of grass and setting the rose cane to blushing. It’s an old story this one, but I never get tired of it, for every new flower, every reed swimming up from watery depths is a new chapter, a different way of looking at and through the world to other times, when we lived in forests and were connected, in the most basic of ways, with the bend of a tree bough, the growth of a lichen, the up-sprout of a patch of mushrooms in some hidden fairy glade. The forest is deeply rooted in us all, there’s a reason most fairy tales, which is the folklore of many of us, most often take place in a forest, or start on the very edge of one, with the real adventure beginning after the heroine sets off into the forest.
This time of year I note the changes on my daily walk, because spring is swift in her devices and in the northern climes in which I live, she has to make hay whilst the sun shines. Everything is tightly budded right now, that great surge of green tightly wrapped inside itself, ready to burst at a touch it seems, though it will, as green things do, unfurl with a slow elegance that is mesmerizing to watch.
The birds have returned, the robins everywhere it seems, so much so that I had to drive with great caution one afternoon last week, because they were literally everywhere, in the roadway, on lawns, flying at my windows and doors. It all felt very Hitchcockian there for a few hours. They are merely drunk on spring though, as they are each year, as are we all as we shed woolen layers and cumbersome boots, and emerge like grubs from the soil blinking at spring’s great light. The geese are back too, in park and field and so I alternate my normal routes, so as not to agitate them unnecessarily. I know many people find them annoying and intrusive, but I always find that rich, considering there is no more intrusive and destructive creature on the planet than we humans. I’m still waiting on the arrival of the woodpeckers who live in our back yard each year, creating much drama and fuss, and endless hours of bird watching enjoyment. I’m waiting too for the spider who has built her web outside my bedroom window these last two years, to return. I know a spider’s life span is such that it’s not likely the same spider returning, but I wonder what trace element lingers there, what secret whisper a spider hears on the wind that guides her there to that particular window? To see a web that closely, without fear of the spider pinching your nose, has been a treat and a lesson in infinite patience that I need to pay more heed to.
Soon that bramble hedge in the park will go from looking like a malevolent crone, who means you ill, to a young maiden clad all in green-o, though her thorns are every bit as sharp, just well hidden in spring. The blue spruces behind which my little house shelters, have turned that soft powdery blue that signals their boughs preparing to push out further into the world, or over my pathway, as it were, so they can rake my unsuspecting scalp as I dash to the car.
The massive Douglas Fir that stands sentinel over the path I walk each day, is filling up with new nests, new eggs, new downy fledglings. This particular tree, for some reason, has become a dear friend. We see each other almost every day and I often filch a tiny bit of frozen sap from its bark- much to the detriment of my coat pockets. It dwarfs everything around it, and stands alone, like some old soldier from another time, remembering other eras, other lives, other feet that trod past its roots. I like to stop by it, look out over the park below, feel its bark beneath my hand and the life that pulses through it, in it. I always feel it could tell me amazing things—the things that happen when no human is there to see, the night time doings of both marsh and pond and forest’s edge— if it could speak, but then I realize it does speak in the way of air and tree boughs and bark and sap, which is an altogether more sophisticated language than my own. When I haven’t walked that way in awhile, I almost feel I owe the tree an explanation- “Sorry, Tree, here I am again, I know I haven’t been by in a bit, but I thought of you often…” The tree, of course, soaring one hundred feet above my head, doesn’t need my assurances, and time I’m sure means something very different to a tree that old.
There is so much to look forward to this time of year- each bud and blossom, each tender green shoot putting its head up through the soil, checking to see if the elements are favourable. How at night, with the windows open, I can smell things growing, that indescribable scent of sap and life and green. How I am giddy with relief when my roses turn out to have survived another winter, and all the beauty I know those bare canes hold within them. How everywhere the water rises and rushes, as though suddenly it’s in a mad hurry to get somewhere and the pond is alive with ducks and tadpoles and the upwelling silt, and the willows cluster thick round its edges, gossiping in the dialect of pale green filigree. The whole world feels drenched with water, with life, with potential. And maybe that is why so many of us love spring, aside from the obvious, is because it reminds us that life is filled with potential, with the possibility of renewal and rebirth.
Spring is Mother Nature’s most opulent season, and she puts on a show for us that we need to stop and see and listen to and feel in our bones and in the mud between our toes. Spring has sprung, so wear old shoes and go rambling, get wet, get dirty, slosh through a puddle, get twigs in your hair, stop to watch the geese skim the rivers and the butterflies floating on the wind. Climb a tree and listen to the stories it has to tell you, I promise you won’t be disappointed.