Wild Plants and Wooly Bears
“Hope deferred makes the heart sad,” so goes the proverb. That maxim comes to life for me about this time each year. Now is when I pine for spring. Each brief hint of the approaching season brings inspiration and joy. But it seems that each bit of hope gets rudely dashed by another jarring shot of winter.
Here is an observation. In late summer, people begin speaking of fall and winter as if summer were already past. When goldenrod blooms and New England asters brighten wildflower meadows, we know to cover our tender vegetables because frost is imminent. The transition from summer to winter occurs in an orderly, neat manner, with few interruptions.
The transition from winter to spring, however, does not follow the same, seamless progression. For instance, on February 28 of this year, an unusually warm day caused a portion of the snowbank in front of my house to recede just a bit. This exposed a small portion of my chive bed. And lo and behold, there were freshly-sprouted chives. These were only an inch or so tall, but they were the first green plants of the year. I nibbled a few and they were bursting with garlicky flavor.
The chives had been growing under the snow all the time and I just didn’t know it. Anyway, near the chives, a few branches of a weeping will freed themselves from their wintry prison and I was amazed to see several silvery catkins, all new and fuzzy. How my spirit soared. Spring was on the way.
That night, temperatures dropped to the single numbers, freezing my chives. And then it snowed. The first storm brought only an inch or so. The next day, another storm, this one a raging northeast snowstorm, hit us.
Why, then, is the arrival of spring so frequently accompanied by fierce, winter conditions? It just doesn’t seem fair.