Monday, March 19, 2012

Kentucky Spring

Spring does not come gently to my state. It comes violently; passionately. It is flirtatious, faithless, and breathlessly beautiful. It takes you when you least expect it, after leading you on forever. I have heard it said that before spring comes we must suffer through seven winters. Yet in the ten years I've lived here I've only seen three.

Mid-January comes the January thaw, when the world is warm and lovely and the bees come out to eat. The bees could not survive a winter without that little breath of spring half way. February comes cold and bitter, with snow and ice. But through the snow peeks the first hint that winter draws to an end... daffodils.

The daffodils bloom in February and March, and gradually the cold fades. Coats are put away, shoes are discarded, and you begin to look forward to the blooming of the leaves. Warm breezes blow... and it rains. It rains and rains and rains. The world turns to mud, and if you get a glimpse of sun you cherish it, for it is but a fleeting glimmer.

Creeks flood, and overflow their banks. Half the roads in the county become impassable. The fire station stays busy. Tornadoes are seen. The weather site of your choice becomes one of the first things you check every morning. You keep an eye on it through the day. You clean out your storm cellar. You keep your cattle up near the house.

A Redbud Tree
Just about the time you're ready to pack away all your winter gear and start planting your harden... it hits. In thunder and lightning and high winds, it sweeps across the land inspiring terror and awe. Sometimes disaster follows; sometimes it does not. But what inevitably follows is bitter cold. From the north comes an ice wind; not so strong as the west wind, but cold enough to bring out the warmest blankets, socks, and gloves. Hot cocoa suddenly resurfaces. You're glad you didn't finish off your wood supply. Winter isn't over after all.

Gradually it warms up again. You discard your winter gear. You go outside to delight in a warm spring breeze, and stop to gasp in delight. Spread all over the barren, brown forest is a pink blush. The redbuds have bloomed. The first winter has passed.

March passes in a whirlwind of flood waters and kite weather. The storms are less violent, but still frequent. Sometimes there's disaster, sometimes not. Planting begins. Spirits soar. The first pale leaves appear in the forest. You pack away the winter coats, boots , and scarves. Children run around and get muddy. You give up on mopping the floor every day.

And then... it comes again. Freezing rain, and wind, and gales. The outside world turns to mush. Baby chickens huddle under their heat-lamps, and calves cry for their mothers. Tender plants are brought into the greenhouse, and from the attic you bring back down warm jackets, and raincoats. It rains for three days. When it's over the world is clean and bright, vibrantly bright under a sky that still remembers being dark. And it's crisp and cool. A chill runs through you as you inspect your planting to be sure it's survived. You pick up trellises and re-tie tarps. You glance out towards the forest and a glimpse of white catches your eye. The Dogwoods are in blossom. The second winter is over.

A Dogwood Flower
The leaves come out, first in bright green, quickly darkening. April comes. The grass shoots up in leaps and spurts. You fix your fencing and set the cattle out to graze. The lambs grow quickly, skipping through new clover. The peas are growing, and flowers spurt up all over. The wind is gentle, beautiful, calling you to come and dance, to run and play and sing. There's something in the air that begs for adventure; there's something in your heart that cannot stand still.

The rain comes less often. The rubble from the disasters are picked up and gone. You begin to daydream of fairs and picnics and outings. You rediscover things like boating, and archery. It gets warm some days, warm enough almost to believe that spring is well and truly here, and that summer is on it's way. But it's not over yet. Not quite.

Snow in April
The third winter comes unexpectedly. It doesn't leave in a hurry. Some days it gets cold enough to rival February. Sometimes you decide you need a fire, but the stove is buried under piles of spring time paraphernalia. This is the winter of hail and flurries. Snow against the bright green leaves make a strange contrast. Through the cold lurks a breath of warmth, and everyone marvels "what strange weather we're having!"

The water from that winter sticks around for a while. You keep your mudboots close at hand, and shiver when you go out in the morning. You clean the fallen branches off your fence, and curse the brambles that seem to sprout out of nowhere. But as the weather warms again, and the dew burns off the grass and the sun shines hot over the swiftly growing grass, and you begin to think of summer, you notice. The blackberries are white with flowers. The third winter is gone.

The blackberries will not be ripe to eat until June, but this blossoming is their promise that June is not so far. Within a week or two the raspberries will ripen. Soon May is right around the corner. In the scorching heat you forget the flowers, and the spring time. In the joys of swimming it seems winter never came. For May is summer and haying and sunshine; the time of spring has passed. 

Blackberry Blossoms

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