Volume 12, Issue 15 ~ April 8-14, 2004
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Bay Reflections

Nature’s Small, Sure Signs of Renewal
by Vivian I. Zumstein

It’s hard to believe how different the world looked only a few weeks ago. Enticed outside by an unseasonably warm day, I tackled some much-needed and long-neglected garden cleanup. As I teased stubborn leaves out from between the twisted trunks of shrubs, I felt the sun’s rays upon my back. Instinct compelled me to turn my head slightly to feel its gentle warmth on my cheek. Good.

At first glance, little other than the sun heralded the approach of spring. My lawn lay dormant with huge yellowed and bare patches where winter’s chill had damaged it. Above me naked branches wove riotous patterns against the sky, calling to mind a toddler’s first clumsy attempts with a crayon. The dirt beneath my feet smelled rich and earthy yet looked idle. Still, small signs of nascent life appeared all around me, subtle clues of nature’s annual promise of renewal.

Snowdrops blooming on the hillside leapt to mind. Small plants, whose delicate design belies a hardy constitution, snowdrops often poke their heads through winter’s last snow. Lovely, yet simple, people often overlook this early flower. Emerging from a few thin green leaves, a single spindly stem grows only inches before curving, like an old-fashioned lamppost, to dangle an unobtrusive white flower.

The daffodils, though not in bloom, were pushing up. For me, spring and daffodils cannot be separated. Breaking through the soil as early as November, these slow-growing plants make steady progress throughout winter despite my hand-wringing during cold snaps. Daffodils know better than I the conditions they can endure. Nearly full height, the plants displayed swollen, yellow-tinged buds revealing the flowers developing within.

Smaller signs hid in my planter areas. As I removed heavy leaf litter the winter wind had deposited among my rhododendrons and azaleas, pale, sickly stems surprised. Forgotten daffodils, resembling white asparagus, struggled to reach the light through inches of decaying leaves. Their tenacity was rewarded; only a day of sunshine produced robust, green stems.

On my knees, I clipped the dead fern fronds flattened against the ground. Nestled in the center of the plants I spied future fronds. I could only see the tops resting at the soil’s surface. Waiting to be coaxed out by warmer weather, they didn’t look like ferns at all. How astonishing when they emerge from the ground resembling tightly coiled pieces of thick, fuzzy rope then to unfurl into slender, supple, green fronds!

Close inspection of the trees, so stark and barren, disclosed small, swelling buds on every branch tip. I recalled noticing a weeping willow in my neighborhood sporting a yellow-green sheen over its hanging branches, foreshadowing a bountiful crop of leaves.

Now, suddenly, spring surrounds us. Daffodils stand tall, bobbing their yellow heads; trees are leafing out, showering millions of bud casings upon my roof to clog gutters and provide a brief employment opportunity for my gas blower; my forsythia sits bedecked in golden glory; the cherry blossoms and Bradford pears robe themselves in finery of pink and white lace, like classy ladies off to the ball; and the clematis I pruned back to just a stick sends forth relentless green tendrils intent on conquering the trellis.

I kneel in my garden with my bare hands thrust in the dirt, preparing the soil for bedding plants. Tractor roaring, my neighbor mows his yard. The sweet scent of fresh-cut grass mingles in my nostrils with the tang of the wild onions that colonize his lawn. The sun, warmer than just a few weeks ago, strikes my back and once again I turn my head to harvest its glow on my skin. While thoughts of renewal flit through my mind, I relax and savor the moment. Every year winter seems determined to hang on, but spring always arrives in the end.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
Last updated April 8, 2004 @ 12:59am.