Easter is over; Passover, as well. Another green jacket has been won and donned. Days lengthen, light lingers. Baseball is back, its annual few months of hibernation ended, its vernal return accompanied this year by a new sense of urgency featuring a pitch clock that threatens to make our national pastime timely again. Over in Washington, the cherry blossoms that line the Tidal Basin have already come and gone, while right here in my own backyard, the yellow daffodils have ceded their place to pink bleeding hearts, the lilac bush is in scented bud, the climbing hydrangea is sprawling green along the garden wall, and the iris are getting more impatient each day to show off their purple finery. The lawn even needs its first hair cut of the year. Can it be? Has spring finally sprung?
Spring is our fickle season. Frost (the poet, not the formation of thin ice crystals on the earth’s surface when the temperature falls below 32 degrees) reminds us of spring’s fickle nature in the third stanza of “Two Tramps in Mud Time:”
“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.”
I’m certainly not immune to spring’s fickleness. The other day, I retrieved a few potted plants that were wintering over indoors, and returned them to their rightful place on the front porch. The next day, I moved them back inside when the thermometer started to fall back toward freezing. I could almost hear them say “Make up your mind!” but I just shrugged and promised to take them back outside once the freeze danger had passed. They can thank me later.
I will say this about fickle spring: if there is still any doubt that our climate is changing fast and that we’re well on our way to an unhealthily warmer planet, just look at all the storms and tornados of the past few weeks that have left so many people heartbroken and homeless. It’s beyond ironic that our most gentle season has taken such a devastating toll on so many. On a lighter note, even the venerable Augusta National Golf Club had to throw in its soaked towel and suspend play on Saturday, abandoning both players and patrons to the cold, wet, windy wrath of Mother Nature. But then by Sunday, as the gentle theme music played on television, the Georgia skies cleared and a few puffy white clouds sailed high over the impossibly green fairways of the Masters Tournament as though nothing at all untoward had happened the previous day. Talk about fickle!
But maybe spring’s fickle nature is also part of its charm. After all, if we just glided through spring into the warmth of summer, we might take all the glory of this season for granted. A little fickleness here and there serves to remind us of just how insignificant our own small place in time and space is. Remember: we’re renters here, not owners. Mother Nature is our landlord.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is Musingjamie.net.