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Columns

March 16, 2013

The winds of change are in this spring air

Right now, there are spring flowers blooming outside the window of my childhood bedroom.

I know this because it is mid-March. And in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, where I grew up, spring rolls out in an orderly procession of blossoms that stretches uninterrupted from February through May.

As a kid, spring was my favorite season. The slow unfurling of it, heralding the end to months of the Pacific Northwest’s signature gray, wet weather, was to me a season of unending joy. Each day, it seemed as though the world was more alive, more colorful and more vibrant. Even the rains that had before seemed dreary and oppressive took on a fresh and exciting quality.

I was shocked by my first spring in the Northeast. The season was unrecognizable, veering from snow one day to stifling heat the next, mixing in raw, wet, windy days that taught me the meaning of “mud season.” I waited and waited for one of the verdant, fresh spring days of my youth, and they never came. So I concluded that spring was a bust, and set my sights elsewhere.

But after several years in this climate, I’ve developed more of an appreciation for this subtle season. While I still grit my teeth at the unpredictable chaos of weather, I have learned to look beyond the mud and dirty snow to see the true face of an upstate spring — to detect the subtle patterns amid the chaos.

I can’t look out my window and see springtime writ large across the landscape. But I can see it in small glimpses. On the branches of the trees that I pass, once-bare branches are now bristling with small buds in fractal-like configurations that differ from one species to the next. And despite a woefully empty feeder, my front porch is once again being visited by a few hardy birds, who are stirring and singing again after a quiet winter.

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