Hope Spring's Eternal!

Is it over? Is it just me? Or was this the longest, coldest, wettest, most depressing winter ever? We have entered into the time of year when we are anxious to be outside, to tilt our faces toward the sun, and to get our hands in the dirt. In places the ground is still too frozen to begin gardening, and I even had a few patches of snow left in the shade that I scooped up and flung as far as I could with a shovel. The frost heaves have left a new outcropping of rocks and stones jutting up out of the soggy yard, as if a glacier just passed through, and I am diligently at task picking them up so as not to get a stone in the eye when it comes time to mow the lawn.

We have some days when it is colder in the house than outside, and I am nervous as I look at the last scraps of wood for the stove, feeling guilty about cranking up the thermostat ever so slightly. I suppose it's a fleece hoodie, for just a while longer.

Yet all about, there are little signs as we enter into a more hopeful time. Just two weeks ago, I spotted the first earthworm. While raking the yard, I brushed off my first mosquito. The cat already had two ticks on him, and he doesn't even go outside!

All about, the familiar songs of birds returning to our area seem to say cheer up! The olive sided flycatchers are busy making their beautiful mossy nest just outside the window, and they start chirping nonstop at about 4:30 AM! Hints of daffodils poke out from holes at the base of trees and wild ferns are just peeking up in this shady wooded neighborhood, where in sunnier areas they are all ready to flower any time now. Soon I'll look forward to a meal of fiddleheads and trout.

Just a while back, with some friends visiting, we decided to take a walk in the woods, despite the brisk cold wind and still frozen ground. I had a black lab in my care (who is food oriented, a chase and kill creature, and a bit of a clown). Letting the dog run ahead as we talked and pointed out the signs of spring, my friend screamed out:

"Ohhhh noooo! Stop him! He's got a…."

As her words came out I looked from her to the dog, who was gleefully playing and tossing something up in the air. He is a great catch.... But as I ran toward him, he gulped down one small gray furry ball like a piece of popcorn, and then he got started on the second. I got it out of his mouth. Blinking, I was startled by what we were looking at. At first I thought it was a chinchilla. But, in fact, the black terror had stumbled onto and dug out a nest of baby bunnies. We were horrified! The rabbit I got out of his mouth was still alive but had a broken hip, and still another sat nearby huddled and shaking with fear. I picked up the two rabbits, found the nest (a hole in the ground underneath some pricker bushes), and slowly and reverently placed each one back into the ground. I immediately noticed how soft, warm, steamy and quiet the nest was, as I laid the babies in there. It was like another world, an underworld so to speak, and I will never forget the silent hush that seemed to surround the skin on my hands inside that nest.

I checked back in a few days; both bunnies were still inside but, hmmmm, no momma bunny around. The next visit the nest was empty. I will never think of that dog in the same way again and thank goodness he's gone home. That's the kind of excitement I can do without.

And so now as the weather improves, the sun comes out to warm us, the plants emerge and animals thrive despite the harsh winter, let us greet each other with glad hearts and wish each other a happy Spring, or offer just a warm hello. In these extremely hard times we are all in some form of distress. We need to be as tender and kind to others as possible, as if placing them back into a warm nest.

I hope that spring is eternal.

Pat Laine is a 9 year resident of Clinton. She owns and operates Little Creek Therapeutic Massage. She shares her home with her Maine Coon cat and collie dog. Whether walking in the woods, or along Little Wappingers Creek and its environs, she observes the miracles of wildlife and plant life on a daily basis.

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