Wednesday, February 18, 2009
A thick overcast blankets the sky. A light drizzle has been falling since just after dawn. Though the thermometer outside my workroom window reads 41 degrees, the dim light and dampness makes it feel a dozen degrees colder. Indeed, according the local weather reports, snow is on the way along with a corresponding drop in temperatures. I suppose it is therefore odd that today—in spite of conditions—my mind is filled with thoughts of spring. Isn’t such thinking a bit premature? More fantasy than fact? Not at all! Why? Because yesterday I found certain proof of vernal forthcoming in a few green tips. They appeared overnight, as if by magic—a half-inch high already when I spotted them just after dawn, three-quarters of an inch by day’s end. They are located under my workroom window, on the southwest side of the cottage, within a foot of the house. A sunny location, protected from wind, and in soil perhaps a degree or two warmer than soil a yard distant—a slight microclimate courtesy of the thick limestone wall’s radiant heat. These emerald messengers are crocus, up from bulbs I planted the first autumn after moving to the riverside. I love crocus, and I put out a hundred of them in little patches around the property—along with daffodils, squills, and hyacinths. I added a similar number the following year, and a few more last fall. So far as I could determine from a quick search yesterday afternoon, the plants beneath the window are the first to poke up—scouts for the purple, yellow, and white assemblages to come. It isn’t unusual for crocus to begin blooming well before the official advent of spring. My mother, who was also a crocus fan, had many bulbs planted along the south wall of her house, and around the home’s front porch and steps area, which faced west. This latter location took the brunt of incoming weather. And yet, those front-yard crocus were the first to bloom, always. Most years they appeared in late-February; and most years their bright blooms endured at least two or three snows. Sometimes the flowers wilted permanently; more often, however, the damage—bad as it looked—was only temporary; given a day or two they’d spring upright and reopen, looking only slightly worse for wear. Crocus are as tough as they are jaunty. Will my plants jump-the-gun and bloom before winter’s worst is over? Maybe. If you believer the forecasters, we’re certainly going to have some snow over the next few days. But these first crocus aren’t that close to blooming yet, and I don’t think the cold will hurt their exposed tips. In the meantime, I’m now allowing myself to think green thoughts, to conjure up notions of spring—with new grass, birdsong, wildflowers, and fish eager to take my flies. If I need reassurance that this all isn’t just a premature dream, I can peer out the window at those little green fingers reaching for the sun. The crocus know spring is on the way…and I believe them!