March 20 – Spring Surprise

by Sharon Lippincott

Today I’m making my annual pilgrimage to greet the coltsfoot. Regardless of what the calendar says, in spite of three-inch daffodils with swelling buds, bursting forsythia buds, sprouting tiger lilies, and red buds on trees across the landscape, spring is not official until coltsfoot blossoms dot the banks of our winding, wooded road. Every year the first flowers celebrate the vernal equinox by raising their faces to the sun on one specific bend, a third of a mile down the way. These blossoms are swallows with roots.

I stretch as I begin my walk, working out winter kinks. My body lengthens. A spring enters my step, and I breathe deeply, noting a hint of wild garlic on the gentle breeze. About 800 feet down the way I scan the barren hillside meadow, foreseeing fragrant blackberry and wild rose blossoms across the top in six more weeks. Just past the grassy slope, a golden gleam catches my eye. Coltsfoot! And I’m only halfway to the site of its traditional debut.

My heart floods with joyful delight as I pull out my camera and shoot a couple of pictures. Then a slight movement to the side startles me. When I see what it is, I kneel down in fascination for a closer look. A tiny garter snake solemnly stares back. It’s thinner than my finger and perhaps a foot long. Dark spots adorn a dull rusty-brown back and creamy yellow belly. I remain transfixed for half a minute before I slowly move my camera into place. The snake pays no heed, curiously flicking its miniscule red tongue. I snap several shots, then pause.

On a whim I reach cautiously down with my left index finger, stroking its back ever so gently. It remains perfectly still. It feels like a snake–cool and dry to the touch, smoothly beady. I briefly consider picking it up, but I’m still holding my camera and besides, I don’t think I’d like to be handled by some huge monster. I stroke its back a few more times and spend several more minutes with the camera before I capture the red tongue.

Finally I stand up and finish the half mile walk to the stop sign, floating on the magic of stroking the wild baby snake. Signs of spring abound. I see more coltsfoot. Tiny plantain leaves and beady sedum peek up from between dead leaves, and wild garlic is everywhere. The emerging wonders of spring shove aside the horror of recent catastrophes across the Pacific and remind me that life springs eternal, that to everything there is a time and place, and light follows darkness.

As I walk back to the house I feel rejuvenated, freed from the grip of ice and snow, ready to skip and play, rejoice in the freedom of light clothing and warm temperatures, and write of faith, hope and love. I come in the house, press my white pants, and polish my sandals. Any day now I shall wear them.

Sharon Lippincott looks forward to spring in Pittsburgh where she teaches lifestory writing and Writing for the Health of It.

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9 responses to “March 20 – Spring Surprise

  1. I know exactly how you feel, even though, down here in central Texas, we won’t feel that way until we see the first signs of fall. Right now we are beginning to feel that impending sense of doom that you probably feel when you face months of snow and ice. It is only when we see signs of fall that we begin to feel that sense of renewal, and start to truly believe that we will one day be released from the hell that is summer here.

  2. Becky, one of the advantages of hellacious summer weather is that there are so many gorgeous places to visit in the summer that, at least after you’re retired, you can gladly escape. I love summer here at home, so traveling to northern climes that are most salubrious in summer is a trade-off.

    Want to trade places? Let’s talk. 🙂

  3. Lovely. The cadence is perfect.

  4. A lovely post, Sharon. Aren’t we all bursting at the seams waiting for spring!

  5. “These blossoms are swallows with roots,” exquisite phrase, a poem all by itself! You took me back to spring in northeastern Pennsylvania. My dad would point out all the hidden holes in the ground and tell me what creature lived there. And of course I waited for and then savored the mountain laurel blooming on the forest floor. Springtime in Pennsylvania!

  6. Thanks Judy. Writing against a hard and fast word count is a challenge. My accustomed blog post “tempo” or whatever you’d call it runs 600 to 700 words. If I’d had four more, I would have included these words, “This isn’t Capistrano, but …” In the trade-off for which to keep and which to pitch, I decided to leave it to the reader and hope the metaphor held fast.

    Sometimes the back story behind how things are written is more interesting than the piece. I’d love to hear more like that from other writers.

    BTW, I’d love to have your dad come explain the holes in our hillside woods. I’ve always wondered.

  7. What a nice connection you made with nature, touching the snake. It’s moments like that, reaching out, learning, that widen our vision, our thoughts.

  8. That’s a great post. But, I can’t get over you touching that snake, no matter how little. 😛 I’m afraid of them. But love spring.

  9. I’ve touched snakes many times. Once I even dared to pick one up from a trail around Loon Lake in northeastern Washington. That one was twice as big as this year’s. I did it to test my courage, with no element of showing off — I was alone on the trail. I held it at arm’s length in my left hand as I stood, but could not bring myself to pull it close enough to examine or hold with both hands. As soon as I’d straightened up, I dropped the snake! I was satisfied with having made that small step.

    I’ve held snakes many times when someone handed them to me or I was able to lift them from a container. I can do worms, toads or turtles. Snakes, a bit more of a challenge. I do believe this time I avoided picking it up out of respect for the snake.

    Isn’t it fun to see how attitudes evolve?

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