Roger Barbee: Yes, ‘It trembles on spring’

Roger Barbee

In a recent email exchange with my long-time friend Druin, who lives in the Cotswolds of England, I asked about the weather there. He responded that “it trembles on spring.” I was struck by his description for several reasons, but most of all by the accuracy of it in his use of an unusual, but vibrant, verb.

In his fine poem, The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot writes that “April is the cruelest month”, but I think March is the cruelest month, and I will use a comic strip to argue with the great poet. In a recent Garfield cartoon, Garfield is seen in the first frame looking out his door at a typical scene of springtime–sunshine, flowers, and warm light. So, like us all, he ventures out into the day to be surrounded by flowers, a bluebird, a butterfly, the sun, and the flowers. As Garfield basks in the warmth of the day he is suddenly hit by a frigid blast of wet wind. Walking into the house, his master Jon asks him what happened. He answers, “March sucked me again.” In disagreement with the great poet, but warned by Garfield, I was curious concerning the status of spring in our area of the Valley, so I bundled up and went out into our back garden during an afternoon lull to see if, like in the Cotswolds, “it trembles on spring.”

I went out to check the lyda roses first because two weeks ago, during a warm afternoon, I had impulsively removed the winter wrappings that I had placed around the roses and butterfly bushes last fall. After all, since I had removed the wrap, we have had some snow, cold wind and rain, and little sunshine. Nervous, I approached the two new plantings from last fall but an inspection of their lower limbs revealed small, red triangular shaped growths all over each. The top extremities of both had some dead on them, but the main stock looked fine. Encouraged, I inspected more of the garden. Each plant that I checked, even the roses in containers, exhibited a subtle, but definite mark of renewed life. Looking into the bed along the corn crib I noticed the short, vibrant shoots of green that mark the irises coming through the mulch along with the darker green of the columbine. Even the volunteer butterfly bush that I had transplanted last fall revealed strong, green stems when I pulled back the mulch at its base. The autumn glory maple that Ken planted for us three years ago had the look of a red fireworks display shooting into the cool air, and the forsythia on the south bank in the front showed bits of yellow and green, and each of the four sedums showed pointed,green shoots pushing upward for the season. Yes, like in the Cotswolds, “it trembles with spring.”

Here at Red Hill we also hear springs arrival announced by birds and other animals. While I have not yet heard the peepers calling from the low woods, nor the rufous-sided towhee, I heard an Eastern meadowlark singing last week in the large pasture across the street. Although it is a year round resident, its first song reminds me of trembling springs arrival, and much like Garfield I sat at Bob Moore’s bench to bask in the garden until a creeping chill came with the sun sinking behind Great North Mountain warning me that March was still here. Yet, the small signs of new life were evident in so many places and in so many ways.

Retreating to the warmth of the house, I sat at the breakfast table and thought of the cycle of the year. I had been fortunate to have had a few moments of spring-like warmth, but the ebb and flow of nature’s cycle proved more powerful than my wishes and desires. Spoiled by modern technology and conveniences, I was reminded that in the universe of life, I am still quite insignificant in so many ways.

Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at red-hill@shentel.net.