Spring is upon us and I think just about everyone has a feeling of buoyancy once Vernal Equinox arrives. Even though here in mid-Missouri only a very few trees have buds on them, we all feel that little buzz of excitement, knowing that things are happening. Within those branches and down in the damp earth many tiny bits of thing are very busy doing whatever it is they need to do in order to pop out, to spring! Those mechanisms, those mysteries of growth and emergenceâ€“bud, leaf, blossomâ€“are known only to the few who study such things, and I am not one of those, not much of a studier. I am just happy to look and love and maybe imagine the tiny goings-on.
â€œLet me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.â€
â€• Mary Oliver, Evidence: Poems
Now the grand adventure has begun. Oh, the looking, the searching, the joy of discovery on our little expeditions into yard, garden or woods! We look for the first this, the first that of the season and the first ever this or that. I remember so well when I saw my first Shooting Starâ€“not a thing in the sky but a wildflowerâ€“on a trail called Shooting Star. I was with my sister, who was visiting here in search of birds and anything lovely. Iâ€™d always thought that trail was so named for sightings of the celestial type of shooting star from the bluffs there. No. The bluff was full of wildflowers. Shooting Star is one of those wildflowers Iâ€™d seen in my book and always wished Iâ€™d find in the wild. In person, as it were. And then, that April, my sister and I saw it together.
Just before official Spring, Iâ€™m casting my eyes to the ground on familiar woodland paths in search of the wildflowers whose whereabouts I have come to know. The east side of a certain hill is the first place I look with camera and mental notebook. And I am not disappointed. Shyly, they begin to show themselves. Tiny, delicate False Rue Anemone leaves, barely out of the ground, are my first reward. Toothwort leaves, too, and pretty soon a tiny row of buds hanging on their stems like socks on a laundry line. They will open by afternoon, I think. But I am a morning treasure hunter, so I will wait for the next day. I get a little burst of excitement with my first Trillium, first Blue-Eyed Mary, first May Apple, one after the other and another. I write these things down in notebooks. Yes, I count myself lucky.
Here’s a lovely Wendell Berry poem that I like to read every spring. I love every bit of it (though my feelings about outhouses are mixed) but I love especially his list of sins, for they are similar to my own.
â€œAt start of spring I open a trench
In the ground. I put into it
The winterâ€™s accumulation of paper,
Pages I do not want to read
Again, useless words, fragments,
errors. And I put into it
the contents of the outhouse:
light of the suns, growth of the ground,
Finished with one of their journeys.
To the sky, to the wind, then,
and to the faithful trees, I confess
my sins: that I have not been happy
enough, considering my good luck;
have listened to too much noise,
have been inattentive to wonders,
have lusted after praise.
And then upon the gathered refuse,
of mind and body, I close the trench
folding shut again the dark,
the deathless earth. Beneath that seal
the old escapes into the new.â€
â€• Wendell Berry
The old escapes into the new. What a lovely phrase. I hope this spring finds you hopeful and as he says, “happy enough.”
If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on myÂ website. And if you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.
Thanks for listening,
P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”