Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I'm not positive, but I think that winter actually lasts the same amount of time no matter where you are in the United States. Winter is from December 21st through March 19th - only about three months. So, why does it seem like winter lasts 5 months or longer here in Wisconsin? Ask anyone from the upper midwest and they'll tell you that Spring and Fall are, by far, the best times of the year, and yet they seem to be the absolute shortest seasons! Technically the seasons are all about the same length, but anyone can tell you that winter is the longest, followed closely by summer, then spring and finally fall. By the end of summer, I am already dreaming of a white Christmas. I love Fall and can almost smell the crisp fall air and the musty aroma of fallen leaves... the unmistakable delight of dinner cooked over the bonfire, marshmallows roasted to perfection... those nights when you need a warm jacket and a hat to sit around the fire, but sweat in a t-shirt during the day. If you're a student or a teacher enjoying a relaxing summer vacation, then summer flies by all too quickly and you need to be back in class again before you know it. If you don't have air conditioning or have a job that requires you to work outside a lot, then summer may be longer than you're comfortable with. But, I would guess that the general upper midwest population agrees that winter is just plain too long!

Budding leaves on the maple tree - a sure sign of spring.

In early October, the leaves on the trees turn brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow before falling from the trees. The grass and plants turn brown and wilt. The wind gets colder, the night comes earlier, and soon the snow begins to fly. Sometimes it snows as early as September, and some years we still don't have snow at Christmas time, but eventually we have snow. We get really excited for that snow... for about a month. Then, we're all ready for spring. The pure white snow turns gray and dirty, the roads get icy and the sun doesn't even seem to be warm enough to melt the snow and ice off the rooftops some days. We close our eyes and remember when the grass was green. We remember when you could open the kitchen windows and dance to the sweet music of the summer songbirds. We inhale and imagine the fragrance of lilac and plum blossoms that fills the air each spring. We wait and wait and wait for spring and summer. Spring has a limited number of perfect days. Days when you go outside in your hat and gloves to clean out the flower beds on a Saturday morning and are down to a t-shirt and sandals by noon. Days when the sun is so warm, it melts the snow and sends tiny little rivers rushing down the edge of the street, washing away the salt and grime, cleaning our world. The tiny woodland flowers - trillium, hepatica, dogtooth violet, spring beauty, wood anemone, and siberian squill - poke their fragile little heads through the crisp brown leaves to reach for the sun. The rooftops drip as the snow and ice melt off, forming little pools for the returning birds to drink and bathe. Those perfect spring days are few. The other 85 percent of spring days are rainy, cloudy, and cool. We refuse to break out the winter jackets again and have already tucked them away at the back of the closet. We will wear short sleeves no matter how cold we might feel. We can't wait for summer. We can't wait to drive with the windows down, to wear flip-flops and shorts.

In the springtime, I go walking through our yard at least three times a week in desperate search of anything resembling life. I take a microscopic eye to the ends of the tree branches, searching for evidence of an emerging bud. I gently lift the layer of leaves that has protected the most tender flower bulbs and roots, looking for the white flesh of new shoots. I pick up the curled little woolly bears, relocating them again to someplace safe and warm. I watch out the window in anticipation of the first summer bird sightings. The first robins, scouring the yard for worms and bugs emerging from their slumber. The horned larks nesting out in the ploughed fields.

Hepatica - one of the first little flowers to bloom in spring, when everything else is still dormant.

Little by little, the yard is coming to life. The birds are mostly back, the hepatica are quietly displaying their delicate lavender blooms atop furry little stems, the trillium buds are pointing to the sky atop their three spotted little leaves... and we're finally getting outside to enjoy the weather!

Drake is enjoying the sunny spring days as much as we are! Look at the "stick" he fetched!

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