Spring arrives. . .and time warps

These recent March days here in Northern Virginia have been cold, windy and sunny. It looks like spring but still feels very much like winter. This is the March I remember from Easter trips to visit my grandparents in Kentucky during my childhood. How different it was from March in Atlanta, where it usually had felt like June, humid and overly warm, off and on since February. I loved the Kentucky version. I remember the white and green speckled look of the slowly awakening grass, the clumps of daffodils dancing in the bracing chill, the fast-moving clouds against a brilliant blue sky. It felt exotic, yet it also felt like home.

And that’s why it feels so right to be here in Virginia during these frosty March days. As I sit at my desk, decades later, I look out on a landscape that evokes happy times long ago, of memories glimpsed and sensed, not fully seen. Much as when I look at my daughter and see both the little girl she once was and the young woman she has become, the co-mingling of past and present is especially tangible in the bright briskness of early springtime.

Spring in Virginia is typically slow-moving, a deliberate and measured progression. Each development can be fully appreciated in its own time. The first tiny green shoots among tangled vines stand out against winter’s dominant palette of brown and gray.

The aptly named Lenten roses have been blooming, amidst their lush green foliage, since February, impervious to the cold. With their bowed heads and subtle coloring, they’re the perfect floral expression of humility.

Crocuses, another early herald of the season, have been popping up for a couple of weeks now. Their small size and delicate appearance contrasts with their hardiness and stubborn determination. They push their way up into the light, through layers of dead leaves, and through the snow if necessary.

The first of the daffodils to bloom in our yard are always the tiniest ones. These spunky miniatures test the waters for their taller, grander sisters.

On a recent morning walk with our pack, we noticed a fresh, lemony fragrance in the air. The source was the yellow bell-like flowers of spiky mahonia, a plant I know well from Atlanta. By the time my mother relocated to Virginia, what had begun as a couple of isolated plantings in our back yard near the garage had developed into a veritable and formidable mahonia hedge. This is a shrub that requires no encouragement before seizing new territory.

Kiko enjoys these cold, sun-filled March days because they offer a wide variety of cozy choices for inside napping. This week I found him in a new spot. Until recently, the carpet beneath him had been rolled up in storage in my mother’s basement. For forty years or so, its location was the dining room of our Atlanta home. It was a favorite resting place of Popi, my childhood dog. (See here and here.) During family meals in the adjacent kitchen, Popi would lie on the rug, his head facing away from us, partly because we taught him not to beg at the table, and partly because he had too much pride to do so. Because I’ve noticed that Kiko, as he ages, tends to slip on bare hardwood floors, the carpet is now in our Virginia dining room. Seeing him lying there on that old familiar rug, I see sweet Popi, as well.

Popi in the dining room in Atlanta, December 1971.

The earth turns and tilts on its axis. Spring comes. The past is alive within the present. I can feel it outside in the chill of the breeze and the warmth of the sun. See it in the radiant grass around the old silver maples. Smell it in the fragrance of mahonia. And sense it in the calming presence of my sleeping dog. Is it 1971 or 2021? Somehow, it’s both.

Popi enjoys a rawhide from his stocking on Christmas morning 1970. Our family rarely took photos except at Christmas.
Popi, at his endearing best, 1970.

4 thoughts on “Spring arrives. . .and time warps”

  1. This post is so touching. I can feel your memories by the way you write about them. I just love the bit about Kiko resting on the rug that Popi also enjoyed. Wow- all the lives lived on that one rug. Sweet. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Libby! You must know how I feel, remembering dear Birdie and seeing Kirby in her. A dog’s love abides and comforts.

  2. I greatly appreciate the beautiful descriptions of our local flora, and the trips to the archives to draw the parallels between Georgia and NOVA. Fifty years can sometimes seem but a blink of the eye, can’t it?
    I appreciated the early springs when I was stationed for four years in coastal Georgia with the US Army.
    Thanks for the reminders of the wisteria vines and their February arrival in our Georgia yard.

    1. Thanks, Bruce. Recently I heard someone say “50 years ago” and then refer to 1971. I thought at first they were referring to two different times. Your mention of wisteria reminds me of my old Atlanta backyard, where, as you said, the vines would be in bloom far before we expected.

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