Nearly a month ago, I awoke to snow. It had fallen in the night and took me by surprise as I entered the kitchen to make my morning coffee. Out the small window there, the world had turned white—and a beat or two passed before I could comprehend what I was seeing. It should not have been such a surprise given that it had snowed heavily the day before, though that snow did not stick. But those were days blurred by death, and the normal attention I would pay to the weather had become secondary to events of larger consequence.
It’s a strange memory, that snow. It continued to fall off and on throughout the day, this small marvel. I have always loved snow, after all, and we otherwise received little of it this winter—and rarely get it in March. It was a transition, though, a final hurrah before the onset of spring. Within days, the weather turned warmer, the sun began to burn through the clouds, and the first tentative flowers of spring broke through the earth and burst forth on the cherry trees.
While that springtime warmth eventually faded into a stretch of cooler, rainy days, the sun has come back with an even greater vengeance this week, blanketing Portland in a breezy warmth that reached into the mid-70s. In response, our neighborhood has bloomed into vivid life, with tulips, daffodils, crocuses, irises, flowering currants and plenty more carpeting yards and parking strips and dotting tree branches as they blossom out into the warming world. They have brought with them a riot of brilliant color and vivid joy—not to mention the tumult and thrum of endless bees and insects. They are everywhere, these tiny critters: in the trees, on the flowers, bursting up from the grass, circling in clouds along the sidewalks, clinging to our hanging laundry, crawling on our clothes after we come in from a walk. They are bees and gnats and bugs, an improbable array of winged creatures that have come to claim the world as their own. The sun—the warming soil—has invited them into their new life.
And it is not just the insects; the birds are boundless, as well. Some of them have been here all winter, I grant you, but so many more have arrived. Flickers and starlings and robins and jays, crows and hummingbirds and towhees and sparrows; they have all been making themselves particularly known of late. The crows, of course, are always known, those corvids impossible to ignore. But the flickers and starlings and hummingbirds have become far more present and visible, and the neighborhood birdsong is loud and lovely and emphatic all the day long. The birds seem to be enjoying spring as much as Kate and I do.
That’s the thing: I have fallen in love with spring. And I cannot escape the feeling that this spring is more transcendent, more alive, than past ones. I don’t know that that’s true; I suspect it’s more a matter of it arriving in a stark contrast to the current strange time. Set against the background of a global pandemic and an altered human landscape, this reckless and joyous burst of life feels almost obscene, overdone—or better yet, a welcome relief. Come closer, I think as the birds flit from branch to branch, as their song fills the air. Sing louder. Keep brightening these strange times.
While the past month has featured its share of stressors and I have grown intermittently weary of these odd times—weary of the disruptions and disturbances that have become so common—I cannot help but revel in the arrival of spring and my frequent excursions out into it. I want to say it is, in its own strange way, a calming time for me. I think that would be a falsehood, though; if anything, I feel busier than before (my job the same for the moment, thankfully) and a number of necessary tasks keep slipping through the cracks as I work to both keep up with the needs of today and not lose too much time to the distractions of the disrupted world about me.
But in a time that more and more features masked neighbors, diversions into the street to avoid others, long waits in line to enter the grocery store, and the sobering specter of illness, death, and economic instability, the sun and warmth of spring and its concordant colorful bloom and verdancy has brought me joy. And while I am busier, it also feels as though I have more moments of quiet, more opportunities to pause and take stock of the world around me.
I wonder how many others feel the same? I am grateful that my wife and I have not suffered loss of jobs; have come down with no great sickness, though we have at a few points felt under the weather; and that my immediate family and friends so far have weathered this storm without any great loss due to it. Still, there seems a particular kindness out in the streets these days and perhaps more patience than one might expect in such a situation. In many ways, this pandemic has led to more conversation, more connection, and more caring in my day to day life than before. And it has offered a universal experience that, while certainly varying in its impact and in its perception, has given us all a touchstone for how to relate to one another.
I do not yet know how all this will shake out, though I remain hopeful that the impacts will be more mild and less lasting than the dire predictions suggest. But I suspect I will remember this spring for more reasons than just the global pandemic—or the personal sorrow—that accompanied it. I suspect I will remember the sudden burst of life, the flowers and birds, the long walks and new habits, the way that Kate and I navigated this moment and laid down another short but significant stretch of our life together, the way my world transitioned so fluidly from death and snow and cold one morning to sun and warmth and vibrant life so soon thereafter, and how it all happened at the oddest of times, against a backdrop of illness and uncertainty and chaos that, nevertheless, could not stop spring from rushing forth, and that could not stop the world from blooming anew.