Snap Tales “Spring”

by Ken Hupila

Spring came today. It was a bit tardy this year, but as they say, better late than never. There is no doubt when the first day of spring arrives. One senses a change that is almost indiscernible. Calendar date has nothing to do with it. Temperature isn’t the only factor – if it was, a January thaw would lead to a lot of heartbreak. A general feeling is in the air. Maybe it’s the angle of the sun, maybe a difference in the song of the chickadee. Possibly it’s the feel of a chinook wind as it catches your face from the west. Whatever the signal, it is unmistakable.
For many years when I was in grade school I felt that I might have been cheated out of spring. We would read aloud from our textbooks of what the middle days of March should look like. Row by row, seat my seat, we would recite on how spring brought green grass, singing robins and daffodils leaping from the ground. Those of us who attended Balsam Elementary might not see those spring-like conditions until May - if then. Instead we endured hip deep snow, ice covered lakes and temperatures rarely above freezing until late March or maybe even into April.
As I grew nearer my teens, I began to realize that spring in my part of the world was different, but brought with it, its own joys and benefits. As days lengthened and the sun grew stronger, temperatures would rise into the mid-40s. A Caribbean beach could not have felt any warmer. Soon we could hear trickles of water running beneath the ice in small streams and rivers. Crows and eagles and dark eyed juncos were the first birds we saw return. As swatches of bare ground would appear, timberdoodles began their yearly mating ritual, first “peenting” on the ground and then rising high into the air to perform a haunting aerial dance. Ruffed grouse roosters would return to a log used by generations to beat wings against their breasts in the hope of attracting a female.
My most cherished memories of spring were about finding an anomaly that appeared for only a few days each year. A strengthening sun would find south facing hillsides before any other part of the forest. Locating these brown little islands in a sea of white brought pleasures only a king should deserve. It was good if there was no wind, or better yet on a blustery day, finding a patch on the lee side of the hill. By mid to late afternoon, tucking one’s self onto the duff felt like lying down on a soft bed, covered by a down comforter. Many days I couldn’t help but fall into a deep sleep.
All of my senses were awakened as if put to slumber by Old Man Winter. Besides the warmth and comfort of my abode the pungent odor of the duff and the crisp, clean smell of pines filled my nostrils. The constant heavy breathing of the wind filtering through the tops of the red pines acted as a lullaby. The raucous sounds of a nearby murder of crows gave a rhythm and an alto harmony to the symphony playing all around me.
Today was the first day of spring. I found my island this afternoon and partook of the joys that I have looked forward to for most of my 67 years. I am not so foolish to think that we won’t see more snow before we see rain. Or, that the thermometer will not read in the single digits some morning when I arise. But I take comfort in that my experience tells me, should these last vestiges of winter appear, they will be short-lived. For spring has arrived, and once it’s here, winter’s grip will not catch ahold again for many months.