Last Sunday, when the equinox bumped into Boise, Idaho, the wind scattered last fall’s leaves around and around the patio. Sullen clouds in both the east and west grayed the day as the full moon reveled in its gravitational attachment to earth, or so I imagined. Betty and I ventured out and tried to capture on camera this “supermoon” but haze and clouds obscured our moment. Like some kind of super moment, I thought, or wished, a marriage of moon and season, but actually it was just another advent of spring.
Most people I know like fall of the year best, but I think I am partial to spring. In Idaho, I definitely believe it is the best time of year. Southern Idaho is a harsh landscape to the eye, anyway, but now the grass will green and the hills will take on an ephemeral, emerald hue. In northern California, where Betty and I just visited, spring was erupting in greens and yellows. Like blares of horns announcing a new symphony, they showed up along the roads, in the meadows, in the marshes, in the vineyards, and the apple orchards. Yellow and green mixed with dabbles of fruiting-tree blossoms painted pink, and lavender and white.
When Betty and I lived in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico, lambasting snowstorms roared in during spring. Twenty inches on the first day of April, and later in some years, and you would think that spring would never arrive. But when it did, the grass’s music rang as true as any tune out of the beaks of mountain bluebirds, and the pollen of Douglas fir scattered over the land like Moses’ manna, a dusky gold that blanketed cars, roads, patches of ice, the ferns that struggled to recover from a cold winter.
In Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, spring, if any amount of rain showed up, would turn the sand and powdered caliche a short-lived green, peppered orange and purple with Indian wheat and filaree and six-weeks fescue, pink-eye weed, poppies and lupine with buds as big as the end of your thumb. Spring is a strange time in the Sonoran Desert, but balances on a short span of time caught between a winter, which many places call summer, and a summer which Dante might have imagined while penning The Inferno. I recall going to work one April morning at 4:30 under a clear, starlit sky. I rolled down the window and rain drops blew in. A storm front thirty miles away announced its life-giving arrival. In the star-spangled sky I was seeing Lynx and Leo, Canis Major while tasting the pure dew of raindrops on my tongue. The anomaly shocked me into understanding how the things we think are opposites are really just parts of the whole.
In Vietnam, where I spent two springs, the first was wet and hot and delivered doses of heat prostration, leeches and bamboo vipers; the song of the AK-47 rang out, too. But lucky for me, the song was just slightly out of tune. My second spring was cold and wet—fog and mist and fog and mist and rain, rain, rain, and the song of napalm and M-16—death and decaying flesh’s stench were the only flowers I noticed in 1968. If beauty existed, I don’t recollect it. The only beauty I saw that spring was the Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro when my plane landed in California, where it was ….green, green, green.
Back here in Boise, the starlings seem to be a harbinger of spring. Three weeks ago they arrived in my back yard, black bodies in late winter plumage, speckled with yellow and hints of red and indigo. They strutted around in my grass and then got on line like Marines policing the parade ground. They goose-stepped across from end to end, probing and gleaning I don’t know what…worms, larva? It’s gotten to be a ritual here: every year, just around the turn of spring, they show up, front yard and back, c leaning up whatever it is they clean up.
Last spring robins nested in the crook between a rain gutter, an eave and the corner of our house. That little drama went on for several months. We photographed the three blue eggs, the nestlings dressed in their voracious voices, their first flights crashing on the ground; rising, then falling, then rising and flitting like tunes on an iPod over to the ash tree in the corner of the yard.
Once, in an earlier spring, Betty lay on the couch listening to robins in a neighbor’s pine tree. The young ones were raising a ruckus with their constant ravings for more food. But a raven barged in and gobbled them up. You could hear mom and pop robin as they shrieked for what…. for help, or to scare the raven away? I don’t know. Whatever their goal, it was futile. I watched it all transpire as Betty put her hands over her ears to defeat the dissonance.
This bird world is a nasty place sometimes—spring, summer, winter, fall—but not unlike our own world (and I mean that in the sense of our own ken). I suspect the drama of birds reflects the drama of our own existence, without the BMW or the HD TV, but still it reflects, emulates; birth, life, nurturing and death. Winter and spring.