Winters in Massachusetts are always longer and harsher than I’d like, native Texan that I am. Each year after four months of bundling in layers like an extra in Star Wars, just when I think temps can’t possibly dip below freezing again and surely the snow is gone, we get hammered with another blizzard. By the time precipitation should be turning into spring rain, it continues to be more black ice in the making. I had braved walking the dogs countless nights in sub-zero temps, applying Musher’s Wax to Trixie and Rhys’ paw pads (made for dogs in the Arctic!) and forcing them into colorful, puffy coats. By last month, I was beyond itchy for the seasons to change. I was nearly rabid. Even seasoned New Englanders had their patience tested this time around with not one, but three, snowstorms in April.
But worse than snow and cold for me is the naked, dead landscape. I struggle to remember that the palette of dull grays and exposed browns trailing endlessly into the horizon wasn’t always there. With all traces of vegetal life snuffed out long ago, tree branches cracking against the wind, and a ground so frozen a shovel would bounce off of it, one can forget that anything ever grew here, and believe that nothing will ever live again.
And then these lines by Theodore Roethke spring up in, of all places, my Twitter feed:
Deep in their roots,
All flowers keep the light.
Because of our tough winters, each spring in Massachusetts is greeted with the ecstatic stripping of clothing and awe-struck faces, mouths agape at the sight of plants that—against all odds—have come back to life again. This year, the spectacle of Mother Nature is perhaps even more dazzling because of its delayed beginning and the subsequent rapidity of growth. The notion of rebirth is cliché but warranted in the Northeast of 2018, of all years. Suddenly, the countryside is more urgently alive than ever.
Tiny green shoots push up through the soil like fingertips grabbing for light. Sharp iris leaves cut through thick mulch like swords. Buds form on trees, delicate clusters of leaves unfurl on bushes. Trees appear red-tipped from afar, the new growth veiling their branches in a rosy haze. Nature begins to thrust handfuls of flowers upwards in colors I thought the earth forgot: pinks and yellows, fuchsias and purples bright as candy. Cherry trees spill their petals like confetti at a party. Blossoms open loud as trumpets. Daffodils explode from the ground in full bouquets, as if the dirt itself is courting us—or asking for forgiveness.
Now the air is perfumed by the scents of blooming things, the windows are open, the dogs are running in the yard, and even the whine of lawnmowers isn’t about to get me down. Every time spring comes—and it does, always come—it’s as though the universe has kept some deep promise, or maybe its more of a lesson, a lesson about hope: that darkness does eventually pass, cold thaws, and even underground, light is kept.