By MIKE NORTON
Spring. You spend weeks and months wondering when it’s going to arrive, and then one morning you walk outside and it’s there. Not just the warmth, but the moist maternal feel of the air on your skin, the scent of fecundity and growing things, the singing and quarreling of innumerable birds in the treetops. You can almost see the new leaves uncurling from their snug potentialities like snails poking our from their shells.
And it doesn’t matter how many daffodils are already in bloom, or that the weatherman has just announced that it’s going to snow tonight. You can feel that something in the balance of things has finally shifted. This is the day. Not yesterday or tomorrow, but today.
When that morning arrives, there’s only one thing for an outdoorsy Old Mission boy to do. I climbed on my bicycle and headed out to the Point, where I could look north over the thousand shades of blue at the mouth of the Bay to watch winter retreating into the distance. And I wasn’t the only one; there were dozens of people wandering around the rocky beach below the lighthouse doing pretty much the same thing.
I sometimes forget what a blessing it is to live so close to such an enchanting place. Just a month ago, my daughter and I were standing at the top of this bluff, shivering in the dark as we watched the Northern Lights ripple across the horizon, the wheeling constellations turning slowly overhead. And now all is children, dogs, lovers and sandwiches, as the forest breathes a musky blend of pinesap and balsam poplar into the air. Life is good.
One way I know that the season is here is that the rangers over at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are starting up their annual “Saturdays at the Lakeshore” program on Saturday afternoons – for the next month or two, before things get too busy in the park, they’ll be leading hikes through some of their favorite areas — exploring the farmsteads of Port Oneida, looking for signs of spring, learning about migrating birds.
The programs start at 1 p.m. at the Philip Hart Visitor Center in Empire, and each week features a different topic and location. The hikes last anywhere from an houtr to 90 minutes, and all are 1.5 miles or less. If you want to learn more, check with them at 231-326-5134, extension 328.
And the cherries are in bloom everywhere! The sweet cherries have been coming along for the past couple of weeks, but the warmth and humidity of the last few days are now bringing the tart cherries into bloom, too, so I expect we’ll reach peak bloom sometime this week. It’s a wonderful sight, even though this year’s cherry crop may be a disappointment because of all the strange weather we had back in March. Last week I was feeling lyrical enough to post A. E. Houseman’s beautiful poem, “Loveliest of Trees,” on the CVB Facebook page, and here it is again:Loveliest of trees, the cherry now Is hung with bloom along the bough, And stands along the woodland ride Wearing white for Eastertide. Now, of my threescore years and ten, Twenty will not come again, And take from seventy springs a score, It only leaves me fifty more. And since to look at things in bloom Fifty springs are little room, About the woodlands I will go To see the cherry hung with snow.
Alas, I find myself now at the outer limits of Houseman’s mortality leash, about to complete the “threescore” part of that threescore and ten. How did this ever happen to me? I only wish that when I was 20 I’d been half as alert to the wonders about me as Houseman seems to have been. Some of us don’t seem to be able to sort out the important things from the unimportant until it’s too late for the knowledge to do us very much good.
Get out of that chair. Turn off that computer. Go about the woodlands to see the cherry hung with snow. It will not be there forever.