Now, your pussy willow doesn’t believe in exuberance. One day the twiggy stuff might be speckled alder or cherry before it gets the blight, or anything else. The next day little white spots break out and a couple of days after that the white spots have turned mouse-grey (why isn’t it called mousey willow?) and a few days later something happens which I suppose a botanist would call blooming and that’s it. Statement made. The pussy willow has declared Spring. If we want to leap about and utter glad cries that’s fine, but don’t expect the pussy willow to get into the act.
Restraint, not to mention austerity, marked a lot of the signs of Spring around here this year. The purple finches arrived on the 12th of March and the juncos at the feeders have come and – now that I think about it – mostly gone again. The first robin winged through here before March was out, but they aren’t what you would call thick on the ground. The red-winged blackbirds gladden the eye and sometimes I hear their call, which Roger Tory Peterson – in his Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America – describes accurately, but a tad lacking in poetry, as “a gurgling konk-la-reeee or o-ka-leeee.” Even they haven’t had much to say, the last little while.
The ducks, on the other hand, cast restraint to the wind the other day. After their winter in the box stall in the barn, we have taken to offering them the opportunity to go out into the big world. Usually they parade out, commenting on the scene, the weather, the color of the barn door, etc., etc. For a while they would go up to the old chicken house and sit under the trailer that’s parked up there, presumably so as to shield themselves from the sun, which wasn’t shining but might be sometime.
On a hopeful sort of day, they would find a wheel-rut full of muddy water and spend hours searching it for tadpoles or whatever it is that ducks spend hours searching for in puddles. Of course, they would keep up a running commentary as they searched, but even ducks can’t do a whole lot of searching in a puddle. Eventually even ducks get the feeling that they have been over this particular patch of water sometime before and lose interest. Then they would go back up under the trailer and be gloomy.
But last week, wonderful to relate, the ducks had a revelation. One little patch of our pond actually thawed out. Well I tell you, you would have thought they had discovered Lake Superior, they were that delighted. My wife, always strong on fair play, says I would have been pleased too if I had spent the winter in that box stall, and she has a point. The water, just there, is maybe two inches deep, but they didn’t mind. It was real water.
So, the ducks have found Spring. I’m sure we’ll find it too, if we just keep looking.
Words & Images
We moved to our farm in Sussex, New Brunswick from Toronto in 1977, only moving away in 2014.