Early Spring in the Woods

On Julianna’s birthday, Alex came home from school in great excitement. “My teacher said there was going to be an early spring!” he exclaimed. We tried to moderate his certainty, but how do you explain to a five-year-old that the groundhog is a publicity stunt?

When I get up to walk on Sunday morning, it’s already well above freezing. All morning, while we get dressed and go to church (jackets, not coats, thank you), the snowpack melts. As the day goes on, the sound of running water down in the woods crescendoes: first a whisper, then a gurgle, and at last a steady rush. The cul de sac is clear for the first time in weeks, and in the afternoon, Alex and I go outside. He rides his bike for a while, and then we put on our boots to “slop” our way down to the woods. It’ss harder going than I anticipated. Eighteen inches of super-fluffy snow doesn’t just pack down as it melts; it morphs into to a snow state I’ve never seen before. I guess my boots are really shot, because slogging through snow at the threshold of melting ends with my toes being very wet.

The last time I was there, it looked like this:

A pristine wonderland crisscrossed only by animal tracks and a trickle of water peeking from a layer of ice.

Today, Alex and I pause at the edge of the bend in the creek and survey the busy water.

He stands with his hands jammed into his pockets, and watches the gurgling waters round the bend, then says, “Come on, Mommy!” After all, there are rocks to throw.

And vines to investigate, to puzzle the mystery by which they grow up, then down, and somehow manage to loop upward again. How do they do that?

And untouched snow in need of shuffled tracks made by little bare legs.

And fingers to poke into the snowy drifts at the edge of the creek bank in an attempt to make raccoon tracks. I watch, then bend down to do the same, and my fingers sink into something barely cold and soft like velvet. I’ve never felt anything like it. Or maybe I’m just paying attention for the first time. “Look,” I say softly, and point to the creek bank, where green shoots sprout from the soft earth. “The world thinks it’s spring.”

And despite all the stressors, the lack of time, the projects pressing down, the nudging that I’m out of balance, at this moment, this moment in the woods, all I feel is joy.

Today I am thankful for signs of coming spring:

Driving with the window down for the first time in 2011

Opening the deck door for a precious half hour to let fresh air into the house

The first day that my early-morning exercise is accompanied by a blush of dawn

A gorgeous sunrise—food for the soul

Riding bikes in the cul de sac

Animal tracks in untouched snow…even if they aren’t destined to remain so

A little boy with fists jammed into his pockets

The mystery of vines

Shuffling through untouched melting snow

Making raccoon tracks in the snow

Green shoots along the creek bank

The whoosh of running water outside my window

Last year’s grasses melting their insulating blanket

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