In Birdland Spring seems suddenly here, especially in the soundscape. Migratory birds have returned and the yard is full of melody. Frogs add their juicy chirp from the wet spots in the field to create a rhythmic and tuneful concerto. Yesterday we walked around the yard, surveying winter’s damage and cataloging projects for the coming weeks. We picked up fallen branches and tossed them into the pile to create next summer’s mulch, a slow and simple composting project. I imagine the tangle of sticks and branches from various ice and windstorms, last December’s Christmas tree, apple tree prunings, becoming a winding trail between two rows of flowers on the way to the barn. This takes a lot of imagination. The “rows of flowers” are still a double dotted line of mud where last fall I planted Day Lily divisions and a mix of bulbs I got on sale. Also, the winter was pretty hard on the barn. We’ve always had fierce windstorms out here, but they came so frequently last year, that before we could finish our repairs, the gale force winds flattened the west wall, recycled barn timbers, lovingly constructed new doors, and all. What can we do, but begin again this spring? Isn’t that what the spring is for? New beginnings?
We walked back to the little pond to see how the fish had fared. I dug the pond 2 1/2 feet down, and the fish have survived several winters, huddled in the depths of the pond, sometimes under a foot or more of ice, to rise up in the spring. A few weeks ago I saw beneath a pane of ice a 4-inch goldfish hovering patiently, waiting for the thaw. This winter we had what seemed like a month at least of below freezing temperatures, with several dips below zero. This winter was too much for my little pond. We still have a nice school of fish of various sizes, but for the first time this spring, as we pulled winter’s leavings from the dark water, we found several dead fish floating amongst the cattails.
In past years we have often had crocuses blooming in the snow, violets blooming in February. This year crocuses have come late to Birdland, and we still wait for the violets. In the south flowerbed the bulbs are coming up; ghost lilies, tulips and daffodils get taller by the day. One clump of crocus in bloom, the golden color of the yolk of one of Maude’s eggs, tides us over until the other bulbs blossom. Some of my favorite spring chores are cutting away last year’s dry foliage. I should do it in the fall, but I never seem to get around to it. I find it much more satisfying in the spring, when I can see for myself the fresh green of new growth at the base of the plant. It seems more hopeful, somehow.
Kali the ghost kitten slowly makes her way upstairs. Each evening we call her and then sit waiting for her to come up and nibble delicately at the food in her dish. We talk to her a little and sing sometimes. She tolerates our serenade. Last night we moved the dish up past the top step into the kitchen floor. She took it in stride, pausing only a little to look around the kitchen before setting to eat. I took my friend, Joanne’s advice and bought some fancy cat treats. They are highly aromatic and salmon flavored. When I crinkle the foil wrapper to shake some out, her head snaps up and she eyes me sharply. In a few days I’ll see if I can coax her to take them from my hand. I try not too think too many steps ahead as I gain her trust.
The chickens have moved back to their old coop after some time in the aviary. This morning we let them back out into the yard. They have wandered over to the thicket, and I will probably regret the loss of the eggs they will hide there, but I love seeing them quietly busy in the undergrowth. The sunshine warms their work, and on my way to the house I see that the sun has quietly pulled one golden trumpet from the daffodil bud that was closed tightly only this morning. I wander back down my imaginary path, and look! One of the muddy polka dots has now sprouted a crocus, the timidly opening flower the same golden-yolk color.
Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland, near White Heath. She is interested in the cycles of nature, social justice, and her own back yard. Birdland now has a fan page on facebook where you can find links to more of her writings.