Patience

By: Mary Richmond

Mary Richmond illustration

When I was a kid back in the '60s, my mother bought a set of humorous, supposedly motivational, posters she stuck up around the house. One had Uncle Sam pointing at my younger sister and me from the bathroom mirror telling us he wanted YOU to put the cap back on the toothpaste tube. He also pointedly wanted us to pick up our rooms. 

There was a poster reminding us to put away our clothes and one telling us to help our mother. Our favorite, however, was the one my mom hung in her own room. It said Please give me patience…and give it to me RIGHT NOW! Even at those young ages, we had learned that patience might be a virtue, but it wasn’t one of our mother’s.

I must have inherited that lack of patience gene from my mother, especially in the springtime. I find it excruciatingly difficult to wait for spring to finally appear. I take every sign I hear and see as thesign that spring is here, now, and it’s staying this time, too. 

Alas, spring is a trickster here on Cape Cod. I’m old enough to know this and you’d think by now I’d have learned a little more patience. Let’s just say I often get caught outside in April without warm enough outer clothing. I leave the heavy jacket, hat and gloves behind in the car, ever hopeful that all that glorious bright sun means I can walk without being bundled up like a Yeti. I’m often grateful my car has a good heater when I return from my early spring walks.

I hear the songs of the robins and cardinals, the calls of the ospreys and plovers and I start looking for the orioles that visit each year. They aren’t due for almost a month, but you never know. Well, I do know, but I wash the feeder anyway.

I wander the woods looking for buds and shoots, and as each week goes by I find more and more green along my way. Tiny leaves are starting to grow on many shrubs and the red maples are starting to redden. Some that stand in the sun already have flowers, but most are still in bud. Red maple is one of our earliest flowering trees and many birds partake of the flowers as they begin to bloom. Squirrels like them, too. Perhaps they are an early spring tonic.

I’ve started to see small bunches of dandelion leaves, the best kind to pick for salads. Back in the day, tender young dandelion leaves were part of salads across the land. After a long winter eating starches and proteins with few fresh greens or vegetables of any other kind, the dandelion was a welcome relief. And, I mean that in more ways than one. Some tossed the bitter leaves into stews and broths. Some steeped them like tea.

Today, our diets are more varied throughout the year, and we can add the fresh leaves for fun and flavor but I often think of my grandmother and her very elderly neighbor picking those first leaves with great relish, as they’d done for so many years.

Pussy willows are fully flowering in some areas and soon the leaves will follow. The red-winged blackbirds are making a racket and baby rabbits are hidden in nests in gardens and lawns. If you find a nest of babies, just leave it where it is. Cover it back up with a few leaves and grasses if you’ve removed them. Mom doesn’t visit the nest during the day. She patiently waits until night falls to rejoin and feed them. Imagine having that kind of patience. Somehow she knows her presence is more of a danger to them than her absence. As a human, that may seem hard to understand, but it’s important that we try. We wouldn’t want anyone kidnapping our babies.

Walking helps me quell my impatience. So does planting seeds indoors and counting the days until I can plant them outside. I know that spr