Leaves. I am finally seeing leaves sprouting on trees everywhere when I run in the morning. Clusters of pale catkins on the tree out my window. Tiny spikes peeking out of the cypress branches. Trees in the distance seen as more green than gray, even in the dim light of a cloudy morning. Spring has had a tortured birth this year, Persephone held back by her tyrant lover, Demeter sorrowing in clouds and rain and weeks of chilly days.
But it’s all over now, I feel confident in saying. No, I don’t. Not confident at all, because this is the third or fourth time since early March that a few warm days strung together have played us for a fool, and I would be dismayed, but not at all shocked, to see frost on the windshields by the weekend. The past few years have been like this in the Great American Midwest. It is perhaps too facile to note that our climate is changing. Will we ever return to normal weather patterns, or is it too late? Maybe we just need to accustom ourselves to new realities. It would worry me, the dire warnings from the science community and the evidence of my own eyes—but thank goodness we have conservative politicians to tell us otherwise.
A few years ago, when I left the ranch, I began the process of getting used to new realities. No more stepping out the front door in the morning to an overwhelming chorus of bird song, to watching sunrises over the barn and fog rolling in over the west pasture, whole herds of deer grazing and dozens of turkeys dancing in the rain. I live in the city now, and watch for other signs of morning. Yes, I see the sunrise, and hear bird song—these things still happen, albeit in ways less immediate, less abundant. As I run in the early morning, the dusk to dawn streetlights click off in turn, starting from the east and moving west. Morning has come. Crossing the Watson Road bridge, a starling flits past me, singing on the wing, as happy as a starling anywhere. At Shop ‘n Save the Budweiser truck backs into the loading dock, beeping loudly, and the Tastykake truck pulls out, drivers who rose long before dawn to get the day’s commerce underway. Traffic picks up, and I negotiate with inattentive drivers at each crossing. They don’t intend to even pause at stop signs, why would they yield to me?
It has taken stores longer than usual to lay in their supplies of bedding plants, of mulch, gypsum, topsoil, and manure. The huge parking lot ‘gardening centers’ are just now opening. I have no gardening to do, only three small pots with herbs in my window, but I still get that springtime feel, things quickening, springing to life, when I see a family loading the SUV with bags of fertilizer and trays of little marigolds and begonias, cucumber and tomato seedlings.
And today, this week really, I am finally seeing leaves on trees. Someone said to me a few days ago that if she had to, she would trade all the flowers in the world for all the trees, and I’d have to agree. They are the lords of the spring, of the summer. Yes, it is still a cloudy week, with not much sunshine predicted for days. But it is hard to be gloomy when everywhere are signs of life.