March 24, 2007


"It's the smell," said one of my students.

I think he's right. A couple days of steady rain has washed away much of the snow, leaving icy trails where snow was stomped hard and mounds of dirty white along roads and parking lots. Big expanses of wet brown grass have been exposed to the air for the first time in months. The breeze carries the scent of rotting leaves and flattened weeds and new mud. It smells like spring.

My students have started talking about kayaking and fishing, and plans for summer internships. My own boys have abandoned the melting snow ramp in the front yard to play Ultimate Frisbee in the field across the street. When they come in from a game, their clothes are splattered with mud and their hands red with cold.

We begin each winter with four snow shovels. But no matter how often I remind the kids to put them back up against the house, inevitably a shovel gets left in a snow bank, where it falls over and disappears beneath the next snowfall. By March, we are down to one shovel usually, and we're missing all kinds of things: plastic toboggans, snow skates, a recycling bin, a whole picnic table. The first hard rain of spring melts the snow that has kept them hidden. I found logs, too, and pieces of plywood out near the road, used last month during an effort to get a car out of the ditch.

When the rain stops and afternoon sunlight moves across our backyard, the phragmites and trees seem to reach for that light. Soft old snow retreats into the low shadows near the kids' tree fort. The sun reaches into the woods, awakening plants and creatures. It's the smell, perhaps, or the angle of the light, but somehow, we all know. Within a week or so, the ice will disappear from the pond, the peepers will begin their familiar song, and winter will be over.

Afternoon Sun


Songbird said...

Sadly, in our backyard it uncovers all the doggie offerings we haven't picked up...I like the idea of looking for a picnic table much better!

jenfromRI said...

The melting snow in my bakyard typically reveals many, many matchbox cars. And that wonderful spring smell!

Kyla said...

Goodbye snow!

RussianViolets said...

This is such a beautiful post, jo(e). I've never been a fan of the mud that brings spring, but this post is enough to make me rethink that. :-)

Anonymous said...

I love the smell of spring, too. Of course, here in Kentucky part of that smell is the scent of skunks, who begin mating in February -- right in time for Valentine's Day!
I like how you mentioned the spring peepers. For me, they are the #1 harbingers of spring. Each year I mark their return in my journal. This spring, I heard them for the first time on February 22. Thanks for your beautiful posts. They add peace to my days! - Kathy in Kentucky

landismom said...

Yes, we're finding all kinds of interesting things in our back yard now, too. What I really like is the muddy puddles of melted sidewalk chalk!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I miss that nice fresh country spring mud smell!

Today the air was hot and blowing through all of Detroit smelling like car exhaust and stale grease and industrial fumes and not at all fresh or muddy. WAHN.


SourDad said...

I prefer the sounds to the smells of early spring. The peepers were blasting away here in SE MI last night.

The peeper awakens
Shattering icy silence
pounding out passion

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I made a little movie clip for you, it's in my most recent blog post. I *think* you can hear the spring peepers in it. They just started up about 2 weeks ago.