Miss Spring's Tardy Arrival
by Mike Lushington

        Miss Spring arrived the other day, late as usual. As usual, too, she was in something of a dither, trying, as it were, to make up for her tardiness by doing everything at once and getting all mixed-up in the process. I noticed this first in our driveway. I had been away for most of the day (my final teaching day of this term) and when I started up our often challenging passageway to the house, I discovered that my left wheels were bogging down in mud while my right ones continued to slip and spin on snow and ice. I am sure that the computer that controls the anti-slip feature on my little car had to have been thoroughly confused, as confused as I am myself when I experience the cold blast of winter on one side of the house, and her warm breath on the other - pretty much at the same time. Next came reports from all over the county: the first robins of the year sighted in Charlo; a Fox sparrow in Jim's yard (the first, he assured us, that he had seen in years at his feeders); Song sparrows everywhere, coming back to join my poor lonesome one that had survived the winter at my own feeders; Purple finches suddenly in full voice and all decked out in their spring finery; their American goldfinch cousins just beginning to sing, but equally fancy in black, butter yellow, and white; Common grackles trying to intimidate the resident Blue jays - all expected tag-alongs in Miss Spring's entourage. However, always unpredictable as she is, she has invited others that may well be uncertain about their welcome in this year of snow and ice - the several Turkey vultures that rely on warm earth to produce thermal updrafts that enable them to soar about while they search for food; the first Osprey of the year on the 13th, right on time according to Kenny's calendar, but facing the taunting need for long flights to the nearest open, shallow water so that it can fish; and, most surprisingly, perhaps the most confused Eastern phoebe in years, arriving in Kenny's back yard almost two months ahead of when it should, searching in vain, I am afraid, for those flying insects that are at the core of its daily menu. Not to be outdone, the four-legged critters of the area have decided that enough is enough - time to get moving, even if the deer do have to stagger through four feet of snow to get to where they think Miss Spring wants them to be right now, even if early skunks are going to be hard pressed to dig for worms and grubs in earth that is still more like concrete and buried under that same four feet of snow, and even if that bear whose tracks I found yesterday is reduced to scrabbling through the snow to find remnant deer carcasses or whatever to tide him over until things improve. She will finally get her act together, this rather temperamental lady who teases, frustrates, and delights us every year at this time. There will come a day when one will have to probe in the deep, shady places in the woods to find the final dregs of the season that seems not to have wanted to yield place this year, when the fiddleheads and the trilliums and the coltsfoot and the dandelions will join the pussy willows and the first leaves of the Balsam poplars and begin to reintroduce the palate of colors that our guest does so like to flaunt - but only when she is good and ready to do so - and she will not be rushed.

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