Despite the snow that just keeps coming, spring has come to Michigan. It is cold enough to keep wearing a winter coat, so it is necessary to look for other signs of spring if you want to avoid a full-on Winter Never Ends depression. Number one: light. Longer daylight, of course, but much more. Spring sunlight is brighter and clearer than winter light, almost a different color. It is the first indication that spring has broken the back of winter.
Number two: animals. The shrub wetland (marsh with a swamp in the middle) right behind my house is home to a vernal pond. Every spring and early summer is full of the sweet sounds of frog sex. They are so loud that we can hear them with all the windows and doors closed. Two months with an instructional audiobook helped us learn to identify our species. At this time of the season we can hear Western Chorus Frogs and Spring Peepers. My favorites are the toads with their deep, sultry croaking, but it’s still too cold for my big, warty friends.
Also of note in the animal camp is the arrival of ducks. I grew up on a lake, where we thought of ducks as pets. The same flock returned every year, nested lakeside and raised their ducklings right there in full view of all of the neighborhood kids. We loved them, doting on those babies like grandparents. I probably still have drawings and photos of ducks from those years. Now, the ducks are temporary, just migrating through. I have been enjoying their furious and purposeful quacking in the early mornings, but they will move on soon. Canada geese have arrived en masse, too, but I am considerably less excited to see them.
The third sign is the slow emergence of plant growth. My witch-hazel shrub has unfurled its red ribbon blooms, but that is all my garden has given me this year. No crocus, no magnolia blooms, nada. I can’t plant anything yet, as the ground is either covered with a crust of icy snow or is spongy wet. Those two conditions don’t seem possible at the same time but, yes, in March and April they are often within a few feet of each other. Suckiness.
Perhaps the best sign of spring is my children’s excitement to get outside. All of February saw me forcing them outdoors in multiple layers of clothing, but now I can’t keep them contained. Yeah for mom!