A Springtime Walk In The Woods

Rambling aimlessly down the trail, I notice the night dew still clings to the soil and makes the plants glisten. In the east, the sun breaks like a yolk on the horizon and it seems all of creation is suddenly awake.  A happy sort of clamor fills the air. Squirrels chatter and chase each other through the boughs. Birds raise their voices in promise—to fly together, to breed, nourish, sing. Trees are festooned with glossy leaves under long lance rays; each breath holds the fragrance of new flowers. Have you noticed its springtime?

This time of year affects all forms of life; young, old or in between. But it’s not just for the leggy colts frolicking in the pasture or the baby otters along the riverbank; it’s for everybody. It’s a time to take a hike, go fishing, ride a bike, do some gardening—time to get out of the house. Spring in Fort Davis is different from spring in Tyler or Bastrop. Wherever you are, this season is not just different—it’s one of a kind; unique to where you live.

The magic happens in the northern hemisphere when the sun crosses the celestial equator on its way north, driven by the Earth’s yearly trip around the sun. This elliptical rhythm is the measure of all being. Billions of heartbeats, breaths, metamorphoses and molecular cues synchronize with this immortal force. So too do the winds, temperatures, sunshine and clouds—all the tactile parts of nature, each in its turn, attuned to this astral signal.

Spring favors new beginnings. Even for the most cynical among us, starts are full of unbridled optimism about what lies ahead. All of nature is new, green and full of hope. To be sure, there will be tragedies, but it’s a delight that the coming year cannot be foreseen, a contentment derived from appreciation of the here and now.  If nothing else, each season is temporary and fleeting. This is why life is beautiful.

The bloom of spring produces waves of bluebonnets throughout the state. But in Texas we are amply blessed: Indian blankets, paintbrushes, lantana and spiderworts spread like sparklers among our roads and hillsides. Every time we stop to admire the delicate blaze, the glorious hue, nature smiles back.  Her smile favors no single species. You see it in the fragility of the pink evening primrose and the spiny toughness of the white prickly poppy. Notice the genius of early to late season wildflowers—how cleverly they match their needs to the changing climate. The real miracle of a Central Texas wildflower season is how such a long abused land can bear over 5,000 varieties to carpet our rolling hills—naturally!

 

Perhaps the eternal symbol of Texas spring is a butterfly . . . a study in commitment, endurance and self-sacrifice, all for the benefit of future generations (a moral feat mankind struggles to achieve). Like some sort of Messiah, after a magical birth, their lives are short but inspiring. Their colors and markings are jubilant and cheerful—raucous advertisements for sunshine and temperate breezes. Whether the blues and blacks of the swallowtails, the amber of painted ladies or dusted yellows of sulphers, color is more than a visual delight, it is mimicry and camouflage of the most serious kind.  Even so, butterflies complement the bright colors of spring. As, perhaps, some sort of message to us all, Lepidoptera are happy to be alive.

Spring marks a time of migration of birds through the state of Texas. Hundreds of species make their way through our fair state on their way north or south.  They flow back and forth like water on a tipped plate. The majority of migrants travels along broad airways changing their flight direction in response to the direction and force of the wind. Some routes cross oceans or huge bodies of water, even for the small and most fragile of pilgrims. Why do they do this? What makes them risk life and limb compared to their stationary brethren who endure the change of seasons? For some, what was once rich and sheltering becomes depleted and unwelcoming. Part of the beauty of life is its diversity. Nature wishes every living thing to be a perfect example of its kind and to rejoice in the gift of life—like the butterflies do!

As the trail comes to the end, I must return to the hectic world of humankind. I can’t help but feel better for venturing out among nature at this time of year—what can be learned? So I wonder at the red-tailed hawk, rising high on a current of air, calling out shrill, sequential rasps of raptor joy. She isn’t aware that her life is passing along with the season. Spring is a time when all nature returns to the struggle; some for the first time, some for the last—it matters not. The tapestry of life continues to repeat itself. And we are all part of the eternal show. So it is a season that has meaning for us all. A glorious time to celebrate and be happy, regardless. At springtime all of nature is resplendent. Have you bloomed yet?

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