Spring ordinarily is death’s antithesis, as surely as it is winter’s.
At the end of our family’s harshest winter, my dying husband’s heart improbably would not let go of us. It refused to take its last beats until, at least by the calendar, winter had at last elided into the season of growing green that he had always tended to.
Just four days later, the snow had melted entirely away. That afternoon, in a sun-soaked Spring service at her school, one of our daughters read “A Man,” written by poet Louis Untermeyer after his father’s death: “I thought of you…. / And it was like a great wind blowing / Over confused and poisonous places. / It was like sterile spaces / Crowded with birds and grasses, soaked clear through / With sunlight, quiet and vast and clean. / And it was forests growing, / And it was black things turning green.”
One of her brothers read Amy Gerstler’s “In Perpetual Spring,” which ends with an expression of “the faith that for every hurt / there is a leaf to cure it.”
Spring was my husband’s season–although all seasons were, in their way and his. He would rotate his birdfeeders’ weekly specials to accommodate anticipated guests, and make sure our porch was off limits to humans when robins began building their nests in a favorite corner of the 1805 ornamental molding atop its pillars.
The fruit trees he had planted would begin to bloom. His vegetables and fruits would soon make their way into the world. Armored khaki orbs of quince would drink in April showers and grow so heavy that they bowed the thick branches which hosted them. At their greatest girth, they often settled together on the ground, still attached at their stems to their sturdy trees. They congregated there like meditating buddhas, to be sniffed at by our perplexed beagles. Sour bruised blue-black grapes and fuzzed raspberries and peaches would cluster.
In true winter I would survey once colorful leaves entombed under ice, and headless bush branches and empty trees and abandoned robins’ nests. I would be certain none of them could be brought to life again, to bear peaches and sour apples and cartoonishly colorful hydrangea and rhododendrons. But in Spring they somehow still do.
Even that Spring.
Since that singular March day twelve years ago, true Spring arrives for me not on the designated calendar date, but whenever I spot the first fully-bloomed flower. In New England, that has invariably been a crocus.
I picture it gingerly poking its way through richly layered leaves glossy with melting snow, as if doubting whether it truly is time to be visible and vulnerable. But once it peeks out above the dense autumn detritus, its lavender or buttered white soup-ladle petals relax, and it theatrically basks in the sun. A Fantasia character come to life, for as long as the light lasts.
Spring came a few days early this year.