The snowdrop is the herald of flowers
Sent with its small flag of truce
to plead for its beleagured brethren …
by Audrey Y. Scharmen
In the final days of February came a springlike day when winter seemingly released its grip on the Chesapeake shore. Drifts of snow melted and the ditches ran full beside the country lanes.
The day proved to be an interlude after all, but I pretended otherwise as I went eagerly about the yard, sweeping away debris from the flower beds. There were daffodils with tissue-wrapped buds already tinged with yellow. Amid dry stalks of herbs was lavendar, indifferent in summer, but showing tiny shoots now. A tall bush of middle-aged rosemary appeared robust, and hidden beneath her spreading branches were traces of bergamot, sage and even a pot of exotic curry with new life.
Beneath the apple tree, snowdrops clung to the wet black trunk, their bell blossoms pure as the snow that had just revealed them. They are lone survivors of an established patch that grew for years on the grave of my cat. All were rudely disinterred in an autumn storm of upheaval waged by well-diggers and dumped with a mass of clay into a battered plot of periwinkle vines that encircles the apple tree. The missing flowers are still entombed far below; it is likely they will appear in time. That is the nature of hardy bulbs. They are eternal. Would that the old cat possessed their secrets of everlasting life.
In the bare boughs overhead is a warbler who has wintered here on the shore. He is a loner, perhaps strayed from his flock and blown off course in a late autumn gale. During a recent storm, a fierce wind tossed him against my window. When I rushed to his aid he lay in the snow on his back gasping for life, and I believed he would die. He was small and weightless in my bare hand as I placed him gently into a brown paper grocer’s bag and carried him into the warmth of my house. He huddled there for an hour or so at the bottom of the bag, calm and alert and curious all the while. Suddenly he arose and flew confidently and strongly about the room and out through the open door that led to his world. He is with us still, the only one of his kind at the feeder, easily identified as a myrtle warbler by his distinctive yellow markings.
In a corner of the porch, I sit in a lopsided wooden rocker as old as I and watch the day fade. There I am snug and safe as a stunned bird in a brown bag. There I am soothed by the symbolism and serendipity all around. There in the dusk the snowdrops glow like small beacons of hope as the warmth of a faux spring day grows chill and the fragrance of herbs follows me indoors.
A new dawn is shadowy with familiar specters. It is frigid, with a wintry mix on its breath, and I see from the window a dozen mature mute swans sailing benignly, bravely, downstream. It is unusual to see such a large group in this creek, and a pair of local swans pause to peer curiously as they pass.
They are our beleagured brethren. Why are they flocking? Have they a plan? Or are they simply resigned to their fate, as we.
Award-winner Audrey Scharmen reflected in this space last week on her 79th birthday.