It’s about time: Spring finally here


Every spring, this column is committed to bring you in poetry the scent of hyacinths as you read once again the advice of an old saying:

If thou of fortune be bereft

And in thy store there be but left

Two loaves: sell one,

And with the dole,

Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul …

Now spring can really begin! And I can tell you the exact morning it came here. The date was April 9 — pay no attention to the calendar — and that morning the barberry hedges were still bare and black.

By noon, there was an emerald veil over the bareness, and by suppertime the veil had become tiny leaves.

At the same time, the pear trees flaunted buds. At the same time, the maples dappled the greening grass with red florets. At the same time, early English violets from my mother’s garden emerged to waft their exquisite perfume into the sunlight.

But something is missing here, something that has always been here, sometimes even before the calendar declares the official date.

Not a single spring peeper has been heard.

It has nothing to do with the weather, as peepers have been and are singing elsewhere. It is because commerce of every kind has overwhelmed — actually suffocated — all of the marshes and all of the low-lying ground where moisture lingers.

Blacktop and concrete smother any spot that doesn’t hold a building, most of which are either for rent, for sale, for lease, yet more are under construction.

Even though this property has been left intact for the 62 years I have been here, the entire ecosystem around me has been too damaged. Try as I might to salvage these historic acres, progress has defeated me to my very borders. Not even my woodcock sang this year.

There is no dusk left, having been swallowed by the powerful lights illuminating every nook and cranny.

I am gratified, however, that the pair of Canada geese has decided to set up housekeeping on the west bank of the pond.

The other morning I watched as Mother Goose wiggled and scooched and tucked and turned to make her nest, from time to time plucking some of her breast feathers.

She seems to have settled in, while Father Goose stands sentry in the pasture, driving Winnie crazy. He pays no attention to her barking.

Of course, Canada geese have long since accustomed themselves to humans, much to most humans’ dismay (but I still love them!) and while I don’t think her chosen location very wise — it is quite exposed — at least she can quickly escape into the pond if danger comes.

It remains to be seen if she’ll hatch a brood, but if she does it will be into May.

And the rabbits are definitely running! I watch their marathons in the side yard where they pause occasionally to catch their breath, and this morning muddy footprints galore in the driveway spell the story of their trysts!

Age, they say, is relative, and numbers mean nothing. Don’t believe it. I read somewhere that as children, we “up” our age to questions, even if only by half a year. Later we sometimes tell the truth. Still later we begin to lie again, backing down.

Only after a certain point do we stop telling stories and instead begin to brag about what year we have managed to achieve.

Unbelievably, I have reached that certain point and I am proud to tell you I have reached the ripe old — and I do mean old — age of 86, as of April 15. I tell my friends they can’t possibly forget the date, or the IRS will come and get them!

So far, with a few of the usual glitches and bumps in the road, some minor, some major, it has been a good ride.

I do not intend to dismount any time soon.

* * *

In the late Howard C. Aley’s bicentennial book, A Heritage To Share, is an account of the first and only execution by hanging in Youngstown on April 21, 1877. The criminal was accused and convicted of the rape and murder of a young women in the area of what is now Powersway.

Before he died, my friend Howard gave me the actual page of the daily newspaper in which the execution was reported in grisly detail, even when the first attempt at hanging failed and the excited crowd screamed, “Drop him again, drop him again!”

I guess human nature hasn’t changed so much after all.

I have quite an extensive file on the celebrated case and one of these days I hope to find time and space to share it with you.

* * *

Horse fanciers, take note: The Horse, a special exhibition of The American Museum of Natural History in New York City, premiers May 17 and remains on view until Jan. 4, 2009.

It covers 50 million years of the animal’s evolution and shows how the horse transformed human art, culture and civilization.

* * *

Dog fanciers, take note: Read Tell Me Where It Hurts by Nick Trout, who is a staff surgeon at the Angell Animal Medical center and lives near Boston, Mass. In his remarkable book, he recounts wonderful events in his years as a veterinary surgeon.

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