At Last, Spring

After a long Vermont winter, and several weeks watching winter and spring battling each other for dominance, I feel I can finally announce: spring has arrived.

In Idaho, I was used to April being the month when wildflowers emerged. Entire hillsides would be awash in the bright, happy yellow of sunflowers. Now, I’ve learned, in Vermont I have to wait until May. The display is less showy but no less welcome.

The wait makes the blooms all the sweeter and precious.

The feature image is a Trout Lily, bursting up in the middle of the path my dogs and I follow most days through a stretch of woods where the ground is still covered in last fall’s leaves and needles. The Trout Lily’s leaves are distinctive, spotted like the skin of a trout, easily recognized even by me, new to the plant. Once I noticed the leaves poking up through autumn’s detritus a week ago, I avoided stepping on them and watched carefully, day by day, until the flower appeared. The flower’s petals will eventually open and curl upward, resembling the Avalanche/Glacier Lilies that were among the earliest higher-elevation wildflowers I saw in Idaho. I’m seeing more spotted leaves emerging from the forest floor every day.

A few days later, while running with Conall on a rail trail through a state forest, a flash of dark color caught my eye. I stopped and marveled at my first Purple Trillium.

Purple Trillium flower.

In Idaho, and earlier in my home state of Washington, white Trillium were the true harbingers of spring in the forests. They’re beautiful. These deep-maroon Trillium, though, are a level above.

Back home, there’s a tall shrub growing close to the house . I don’t know what it is, although it resembles a willow, with long, thin leaves that droop toward the ground before falling off in autumn. I considered trimming it back, drastically, because all winter the winds caused its long, thin, bare branches to scratch against my kitchen and bathroom windows. Eventually I got used to the sound and ignored it.

This week, that shrub hosted both bumblebees and three Goldfinches. I see now that it produces catkins that attract bees and birds.

Bumblebee flying near shrub.
Bumblebee collecting pollen from catkins on the yard shrub.

I’m so glad I didn’t whack it back. Like dandelion weeds in the yard, it obviously feeds bees and birds in early spring when there’s little other food for them. Worth leaving them as nature intended.

Another sign of spring is the pair of Canada geese who have claimed one of the ponds on my neighbors’ acreage for their mating and nesting. Whenever they see me and my dogs, they start honking, warning us to keep our distance. They’ll swim toward us as they honk. I know from childhood experience, trying to feed the big birds, that Canada goose beaks can pinch and maim. I can only imagine how aggressive they become when protecting goslings.

I haven’t seen any goslings yet. Still, the pair vocalizes whenever they see us. Conall seems to enjoy taunting them by wading into the pond to drink and cool off.

Just for grins, I set the video to slow motion. This is what Canada goose honking sounds like, slowed way down.

One of the coolest new things I’ve experienced associated with spring in Vermont is the sound of Spring Peepers. They’re small frogs that gather to mate soon after winter’s snows have melted and their winter hibernation ends. There’s a large marsh just below the pond seen in the geese videos above. Just listen to these Peepers – quite the joyous chorus!

And again, just for grins, I set the video to slow motion. I was surprised how haunting and eerie the Peepers sound in that setting.

Spring is just ramping up here. Trees are finally starting to bud, adding a hint of bright, fresh green to their winter-bare brown and gray branches that still startle me when they “talk” in a breeze. The fields are also greening up, grasses growing taller by the day. Puddles and muddy spots are drying out. Robins and other songbirds forage for food, singing at sunrise and sunset, announcing the lengthening daylight like musical bookends. I struggle to identify many of the song. Bulbs and hostas in my yard are sending up tentative leaves from the damp soil, seeking the sun’s warmth; some I recognize, some I’m waiting for more evidence before naming.

It’s all thrilling. The familiar and the new, teasing me to reflect on homes past while insisting I learn about nature’s ebbs and flows in my new home. Winter’s harsh winds are gone, spring’s warm afternoon sun reddens my pale skin after too long a separation. Every saunter into nature is a revelation of all I don’t yet know about Vermont’s seasons but am eager to learn.

12 thoughts on “At Last, Spring”

    1. I’ve been saying since moving here that I was eager for spring so I could see what plants emerged in my own garden as well as which wildflowers appeared in the woods. Change is good. Not always easy, but always good.

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  1. What a lovely time this must be in Vermont. I’ve never seen a Trillium. So distinctive. I think there are two species of Trillium which grow in the middle heights of the Himalayas. I’ll keep my eyes open for them.

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    1. I hope you find some! The white ones are beautiful, and sometimes turn pink as they age. There’s another type here in Vermont I’ve yet to see that has mostly white petals but with a line of purple/maroon near the base of each petal forming a bright circle deep within the flower. Trillium are also called Wake Robin here, a name new to me. All fun to learn!

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  2. It’s fun to learn about the rhythms of nature in a new home, isn’t it? Here in nw Ohio, I spend April going on wildflower walks, then in May I turn my focus to warblers and dragonflies. I enjoyed the slo-mo geese and peepers !

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    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the slo-mo sounds! That was an indulgence on my part. And yes, learning nature’s rhythms is making this spring especially fun since I’m new to Vermont. Gotta say, though, I’m not a fan of black flies 😦

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  3. Love the color of that trillium! We have a nightly chorus of tree frogs and they are VERY loud. However, I’m so used to them, it feels wrong if they aren’t singing. 🐸

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  4. Well, you say spring’s just arrived, but I went and picked up Sophie over the weekend and it felt more like summer. We were walking around town after dark in shorts and t-shirts. Hotter than it’s been in Pennsylvania. I assume it’s an out of the ordinary heat snap. I did a good bit of Vermont hiking last fall. It’s really an amazing state..

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