The first signs of spring (Walden 188)

“One attraction in coming to the woods to live was that I should have leisure and opportunity to see the Spring come in…  I am on the alert for the first signs of spring, to hear the chance note of some arriving bird, or the striped squirrel’s chirp, for his stores must be now nearly exhausted, or see the woodchuck venture out of his winter quarters. On the 13th of March, after I had heard the bluebird, song sparrow, and red-wing, the ice was still nearly a foot thick.” — Henry David Thoreau, “Spring,” Walden

Thoreau’s journal entries reveal that he got tired of winter just like anyone else, and that he was keenly aware of any sign — no matter how subtle — that spring was on its way.

I remember times when I’ve seen enormous flocks of Canada geese — thousands of ragged V-shapes in the sky, stretching mile after mile — heading north near the Platte River in eastern Nebraska when the weather still felt like winter. In central Nebraska the sandhill crane migration path narrows to about a hundred miles wide along the Platte River, and the large gray birds arrive by the hundreds of thousands — followed by camera-toting tourists in slightly smaller numbers. Spring migration begins in what feels like the dead of winter (the cranes should start arriving on the Platte in another week or two), but it’s always a happy feeling to see it happen, not only to see and hear the birds, but as a reminder that spring is coming soon. It is as welcome as seeing that first green shoot a month later, or the first robin.

What are the early signs of spring where you live?

(About  “A Year in Walden”)


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