It is spring in Ann Arbor, Michigan. So far, like the damp, chilly winter we just had, spring has been wet, but it’s been punctuated by promising warm days under skies as blue as memories. This season has a reputation for frolic, mating rituals, the riotous bursting forth of suppressed life. But there is an earnestness to spring as well, an implied faith that awakening from dormancy is worth the bother despite the short growing season of this northern clime. It is a sense that life will out, that even in this time of unreason and teetering on the brink of we-know-not-what-but-it-don’t-seem-good, the world is safe enough to re-enter.
Looking out my bedroom window to my backyard, I think that autumn is not the only season with “peak color.” Spring has it, too, and it is upon us. The new leaves on the young tulip tree are a bright, succulent green that seems as much a light source as a reflection. Nearby, the Japanese maple leaves appear like delicate little hands painted a rich, dark red. The pink flowers of the pear tree next door arc above the fence. They remind me of redbuds, whose branch-hugging blossoms outline the bony winter shapes of the trees even as they declare, “It’s spring! It’s finally spring!”
Sunlight through translucent new leaves is lovely, but it is on a rainy day that the colors are at their peak. The wetness reveals the truest hues as it does in river stones. It is tempting to collect those stones, to bring them home to admire, yet it never quite works out, does it? Dry, they become dull and dusty, seemingly ordinary, and when you notice them months or years later, you wonder what possessed you to put them on your mantle or sideboard or whatever knick-knack place you have. You could put them in a home fountain to expose their beauty once again, and maybe you do for a time, but eventually you tire of refilling it, when all along if you had left them in the river, they would have shone for you and anyone else who happened upon them.
I stand on my front porch and look at the new redbud tree that stands hopefully where a lovely one, carefully nurtured, once lived. That one, having just reached its prime, was crushed by a mammoth street tree that fell during a windstorm, grazing the house when it could have destroyed it. We cleaned up, did some thankfully minor repairs, and planted another redbud. It appears to be thriving, and it should have a nice long life in its spot. Then again, that’s what I thought about the previous one until its lease all too suddenly ended. For now, the new tree seems to be making the best of the time it has in what was a place of life, then sudden death, and now life again. I miss its predecessor, but I am rooting for this one. It’s gradually coming into its own. Life, like truth (I hope), will out. Spring is its time.