AP NEWS

Harbingers of spring conjure sweet memories from days past

March 21, 2019
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Billowy clouds signal hope on a spring-like, late-winter day.

“The Sun after the rain is much more beautiful than the Sun before the rain.” — Mehmet Murat IIdan

“Give food to the birds, you will then be surrounded by the wings of love, you will be encompassed by the joys of little silent heart!” — Mehmet Murat IIdan

“There’s the robins,” my husband said recently in a singsong voice typically reserved for animals. It is such a simple phrase that hearkens back to my childhood, and yet plants me in the here and now.

Before meeting John, there were two men in my life who introduced me to nature, my papaw, as I called him, and my dad. As a child, I spent quite a bit of time with my grandparents. Papaw loved to watch the birds. He usually kept a bird feeder year round in his back yard, just outside the kitchen window. During the winter months, he was often known to go outside and chase away the blue jays.

“The meanest bird there ever was,” he was fond of explaining. Ah, but the arrival of the robins got Papaw jazzed.

“Stethie,” as he called me, “spring’s not too far off when the robins come back.”

He would linger over the draining rack as he dried dishes that my grandmother washed. Steam would be rising over the chilled windowpanes as his eyes twinkled watching the robins.

“Lookie how red the breast is on that one.” “Notice how they sing even though it is still cold.” “Notice, look, lookie-here ...”

My dad was also fond of birds, but he would sometimes take my siblings and me “on the hill,” as we called it, for Sunday afternoon walks, especially in

the spring and fall. He would encourage us to notice the trees — their leaf shape, their bark texture; notice the moss — where it grew, how it felt, the different ways it could look; pick up and examine the seeds and nuts that were tossed pellmell; notice the early spring flowers poking through the detritus of the forest floor.

“Did you hear the woodpecker?” Dad would ask us. “Let’s see if we can find it,” as our eyes scanned the tree arms above.

Therefore, on a recent night this past mid-March week, as John, my husband, and I sat on the front porch enjoying the warmth, the sunshine, and the birds, my mind drifted to those feathered friends of Papaw and the hilltop hikes with my dad.

“Listen to the robins sing, Steph.”

“Look at those two robins in the grass fighting for mating rites.” I sighed, taking it all in.

The multi-layered, billowy clouds above; the willows’ early greenings; the skeleton appendages of the other trees, full of dark buds just waiting to burst through; the bite of the breeze that caused John and me to shiver; it was all so glorious and grounding during the midst of a difficult week.

“Look!” I exclaimed to John. “There’s a bluebird couple!”

“No wait, there’s four blue birds on the line!”

As I crept from one end of the porch to the other, in order to capture a picture of them, I happened to see another bird couple, house finches, in our lilac bush. I motioned for John to come look, but he didn’t notice.

Therefore, I tried to gain his attention with a whispered, “Psst!”

While it did gain John’s attention, it was too much noise. A flash of both bright and dull cobalt blue fluttered into flight; followed in suit by a flicker of pinkish red and gray, one more vibrantly colored than the other.

Returning to my chair, John said, “Look, Steph, aren’t those gold finches with the dipping and darting flight you like so well?”

Our conversation and observations continued until my growling stomach told me we needed to eat the dinner already prepared and staying warm in the kitchen. John lingered a bit longer as I reluctantly, and yet, joyfully, parted from my porch perch. My soul felt grounded and renewed from those 30 or so minutes of observing, noticing, and listening — and, all those other verbs of nature-love Papaw and Dad taught.

Walking into the entrance of my home, I shook my head. Oh, how both Papaw, now in his eternal spring; and Dad, wintering in the Florida sunshine, would have enjoyed such natural theater of that evening. How very marvelous and precious the season of spring has become!

What a gift of time John and I shared on that rare March evening surrounded by hints of spring. Such a metaphor for life.

“God, make me brave for life: oh, braver than this. Let me straighten after pain, As a tree straightens after the rain, shining and lovely again.

“God, make me brave for life; much braver than this. As the grass lifts, let me rise from sorrow with quiet eyes, knowing Thy way is wise.

“God, make me brave, life brings Such blinding things. Help me to keep my sight; Help me to see aright That out of dark come light.” — Grace Noll Crowell

Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and a teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Huntington. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at hill992@zoominternet.net. Or you can check out her website, stephsimply.com.