April up here in Northern Michigan means the lake finally thaws, but it’s still snowing as May approaches, and the water in the birdbath has frozen solid. But then on a warm day when the temperature cracks 40 we are out in the yard gathering leaves into brown bags and whipping them into mulch to spread in the garden and under trees and bushes. We don’t deal with dead leaves in late fall because some butterflies overwinter as adults in the leaves. We sometimes see them flying on a warmish winter day.
|Compton Tortoise Shell|
Yard work is good for the soul. We feel fatigue in our back and legs – lots of bending to coax dead leaves out from under bushes, raking leaves piled against our neighbor’s fence, bending to load them into bags, and bending again to load them into the leaf whipper, lugging chopped leaves to garden areas, bending to distribute them. I’m not fully trusted to distribute them properly, but there is still plenty of grunt work for me to do. I do have a cardio rowing machine in the basement, but apparently having it in the basement is not, in itself, a good workout. I may have a body/soul issue here, but I experience yard work as good for the soul.
Kim says that one of the happiest things in her life is seeing rue-anemone that she planted now emerging as white and pink flowers reaching bravely through a bed of leaves – a triumph of faith. Or perhaps trout lilies, relocated from where we found them in the woods, triumphantly modulating into green, then springing yellow flowers. We are also thrilled by surprises – plants that appear and we have no idea what they are (yet) or where they came from.
|Sharp Lobed Hepatica|
Kim is currently working on a moss garden.
And the birds are returning as well. We’ve had gold finches, chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers all winter, along with grackles, crows and ravens, but now our mallards and mergansers are back, along with some sparrows, kinglets and redpolls, and we put up the hummingbird feeders for the early birds. We are looking forward to the loons.
There is simply something hopeful about Spring. As we get older we have a linear sense of time, moving in one direction toward an inevitable destination. We know it, and we can feel it. But with the return of warm weather and the re-emergence of flowers, buds and leaves, and butterflies and birds, we see ourselves in cyclical time, renewing, much the way I experienced time as a teacher with the re-opening of school in September. We are circling – and not just circling the drain.
The alert among you may have noticed that it is now May, not April, and the elation continues. We like winter well enough, but up here it’s about a month or two too long. April can be cruel, which is one reason why we appreciate May so much.
“Why are you beating your head against the wall?”
“Because it feels so good when I stop.”
Meanwhile, we spent an hour or so on Sunday watching Reilly, our granddaughter, graduate from the University of Florida. This was a thrill, and it was exciting seeing all those bright young faces on my laptop, marching in from the left, smiling and doing the Gator chop or maybe a little dance, before marching off to the right to continue our renewal.