Nature Connection: The Promise That Is Spring

by Mary Richmond
A mourning cloak butterfly, a hopeful sign that winter is over.  MARY RICHMOND PHOTO A mourning cloak butterfly, a hopeful sign that winter is over. MARY RICHMOND PHOTO

The sun, remember her? She is shining brightly as I write, and I don’t know about you, but I needed some sun really badly. The constant gray, damp, rain and darkness was getting to me. It’s been a tough few months at our house and the weather wasn’t helping, although I guess I could say it symbolically reflected my mood quite well.

Seeing the sun again, though, helped me find the energy to get out of the house and take a long walk. The air was still cold, and the wind brisk, but a few birds were singing, the daffodils were beginning to bloom in the sunniest parts of the yard, and I swear you could smell hope in the air.

We lost our beloved dog last week so it’s been difficult to feel much hope or happiness, but spring has a way of coaxing smiles out of us even when we don’t feel much like smiling.

As I walked through my neighborhood on a route our old dog and I traveled frequently, I found myself remembering the good times as I stopped to pet a neighbor’s dog, waved at another neighbor’s cat in their window, and watched two male robins posture and strut as they tried to impress the same female robin who didn’t seem the least bit interested.

It's that time out in nature, the time when every creature is either trying to attract attention or claim the best territory. It’s a noisy, often contentious time for some, while others concentrate on gathering nesting materials or finding a good spot to make a den. Some birds and animals make elaborate preparations while others make a pass at it and call it a day. I put mourning doves in the latter category and ospreys in the first.

Baby animals are being nurtured already in nests and dens all over town. Some are in trees while others are underground. Some may be in your shed or under your deck while others are considering your watering can or gas grill as possible spots to raise a family.

Some birds are already nesting but most are just beginning to think about it. In the last week our resident mockingbirds have been busy and the local robins have been singing. Last year one robin took weeks to find a mate but this year it seems to have happened quickly and the pair is already building a nest.

Swans are early nesters and if you are seeing a lone swan where you saw a pair recently it may be because she is sitting on a nest out of sight. I’ve seen some posts online from people very concerned that the single swan lost a mate but in most cases it is probably just a case of a nesting swan, not a sad story. Soon geese and ducks will follow suit.

The mourning cloak butterflies have been coming out of hibernation. They are one of the only butterflies that winter over here as adults, hiding behind bark as winter rages on. They reappear once the temperatures warm up and you may see them sunning themselves by a mud puddle or on a log in the woods.

Many of our early spring wildflowers are already in bud and many trees are also putting forth new growth. It won’t be long now before there are blooms and pollen everywhere. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait. Bring it on!

Spring brings out a feeling of anticipation and hopefulness in many of us, I think, and with all the bad news we get fed daily, it is very welcome. It is good to remember that the world keeps turning, the sun rises and sets, the moon waxes and wanes, the tide rushes in and out, the seed sprouts, grows, blooms, puts forth fruit or seed, then shrivels and dies to help the next generation do the same.

I’ve been thinking a lot about life and death lately, and as we went through the last weeks of our old dog’s life these thoughts were extremely poignant. If you are a dog lover, you know how special our boy was to us and how much a part of our daily life he was. He was funny, smart, loyal, and had a huge personality. He was my class mascot, companion and coach to my grandchildren when they were learning to play soccer and friend to all he met.

We all know the lives of our pets are far too short and yet we sign up again and again. Our pets teach us to live in the moment, to accept life as it is. They say that grief is simply love left with no place to go, and I like that.

As I stood out in the backyard earlier in the day there was a huge ruckus of crows and jays, and when I looked up two immature bald eagles were soaring overhead. They flew higher and higher to get away from the crows, taking their time as they moved across the sky. I smiled as I watched them go.

It wasn’t that long ago that we thought eagles and ospreys might become extinct. Through some adamant and timely human intervention, that was prevented and today we see both on a regular basis. For me, seeing these eagles reminded me that there is always hope, always the possibility that things will improve.

Spring brings new life to everything she touches. She reminds us that even death has its place, that life would not be renewed without it. As I turned to come back in the house, I noticed another daffodil had opened up and bloomed by the back step.