Rick Bass, in his book The Wild Marsh, writes about April: “Consider again, please, the notion of sight, odor, taste, and touch as a kind of music: as all lesser complements to this astounding movement of April. It is like nothing if not a symphony out there...Everywhere you look, in April, you see music and movement...”
Bass writes in Montana where, like Nova Scotia, spring teases for several months (27 degrees, big snowstorm, 14 degrees, freezing rain, 20 degrees, rain for a week). Regardless of the tricks Nature plays on us, there are definite signs of spring that the weather will not deter.
Robins. Always the robins. Usually, there is the scout that gets us excited about the return of the robins but this year, they seemed to turn up all at once (a seat sale at Migration Air?).
For my husband and me, another bird is the harbinger of spring: the arrival of the ospreys back to the nest near our home. Around the first of April, my husband says once a day, “I wonder when the ospreys will arrival,” and they are arriving earlier every year. Two springs ago, they arrived on April 20 and last year, it was the 13th but this year, we saw their distinctive shape in the nest on the 10th. We forget how in tune we are with their presence until our eyes and ears are filled with their music and movement.
That’s how my friend Patti feels about spring peepers. About hearing them for the first time this year, she says, “My heart started to beat faster. You’re listening for them but it creeps up on you. You can be talking to someone and the sound will draw you away from your conversation until you realize what you are hearing.”
We have met over coffee at the café in Pugwash and she’s brought a cluster of mayflowers with her, stems soaking in water inside a clear baggie.
“The scruffy little flowers grow at the side of the road,” she explains, “and all you see are these grubby leaves.”
The leaves indeed appear ragged and worn out.
“Then within them,” Patti continues, “are these jewels.”
She holds the bunch of tiny mayflowers to my nose. They are so small yet their wild, sweet scent is distinct and lovely.
What are the other signs of spring? Opening day of fishing season. Men standing around watching ditches burn. The first hot sunny day at the beach.
That was March 17 this year because while walking our dogs at Heather Beach on that afternoon, my friend Jane and I witnessed a woman in a blue bathing suit walk into the water and dip her body under the surface. Someone took her picture then she dashed back to shore.
It’s the music that cues a striptease. When we hear the symphony of spring tuning up, we peel away our inhibitions like layers of wool and fleece and flannel. Spring makes us daring, fills us with hope and excitement. The first swim, the first hatless walk into a north wind, the first sockless day. Imagine living in a place where there are no seasons, no summer or winter, no fall, but worst of all, no peepers or young men walking along the side of the road carrying fishing poles or a crazy lady at the beach covered in goose bumps, her laughter a concerto of audacity.