Signs of Spring

The vernal equinox occurred last weekend. That’s one of the two moments each year when the earth faces the sun head-on, as it were, and our day is the same length (twelve hours, give or take a few minutes) as for people living along the same latitude in the southern hemisphere — say, Christchurch, New Zealand, or the Valdes Peninsula in Argentina. We know it more informally, though, as the first day of spring.

Most years, to be honest, we barely note the day. It’s not unusual to have plenty of snow on the ground and ice on the pond, and for Ursula and Virgil to need their snowsuits and winter jackets when they go outside to play. Spring? I want to scoff at those times. This isn’t spring. Talk to me again in a month.

But this year. . . this year was different. Several days in a row brought blue skies and sun so warm that we started doing without coats, then without fleece. On Saturday morning, giving in to giddiness, I dug around in the kids’ drawers for T-shirts. Snow that had flanked the roadsides midweek retreated to the edges of the yard after a few days’ skirmish with the sun.

None of us could stay inside. I collected downed tree limbs from our recent wind storms, the chirps and tweets of birds I hadn’t heard for months greeting me from every branch and bush. Jim fixed the sauna stovepipe with my father, who had picked perfect weather for a visit. Virgil tore off down the road on a new bicycle, Ursula’s from last year. Ursula complained until Jim reminded her that a nearly new mountain bike handed down to her from neighbors up the road was ready and waiting in the barn.

We walked into the woods before lunch, noticing where wild turkeys had scraped around in the leaf litter. Ursula squatted at the mossy edge of one of the bigger freshets trickling down the hillside. She searched around in last year’s leaves, picking out delicate brown curls to launch as boats. I watched her reach across the narrow stream and gently nudge a small ledge of ice into the surging water, as if she’d heard its plea to join the urgent journey.

The rest of us kept exploring and eventually turned back to the house. Right before we left the woods, I turned and looked back down the hill, scanning for Ursula. I caught the royal blue of her T-shirt, bright against the forest’s browns and grayed whites. I stood for a moment, following the blue as it dipped and swayed. A dozen saplings and narrow birches stood between us, but I could just make out Ursula bending over the brook, dropping something in and sitting back on her heels to watch it go.

Some time later, I saw that she was back inside, one leg draped over her favorite chair, reading. Little bits of twig and leaf stuck to her pants, and the knee she was bouncing against the armrest sported a round wet patch. That’s as good a sign of spring as any.

Learn more
Information about equinoxes.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Kristen Laine.

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