For some people, spring arrives with the first crocus bloom, or perhaps a snowdrop. For me, it has to be a pussy willow. Something about the furry, plump “blossom” gives me not only the hope of spring, but the certainty of it.
Sometime around mid February, or even earlier in a warmer winter, I start looking beside the roadways for the rows of grey blossoms arranged on long, graceful branches, waiting for me to clip a few to take indoors, announcing to all that spring indeed is here. That is, until recently.
Now, I have my very own pussy willows, having planted two bushes in a corner of my yard. The idea came to me after seeing a grand bush in a friend’s yard, and remembering all the drives and hikes that I had spent searching for each spring’s announcement.
Planting, and growing my own seemed a perfect solution, and I guess it is – sort of. Now I realize that those walks in the woods were a big part of the enjoyment – almost like a treasure hunt. I would look closely at the watery ditches and small clearings, hoping to see the very beginnings of the new season. I would take note of the location of a likely-looking bush, and return in a few days to check on its progress, or lack thereof. Sometimes these bushes turned out to be something else entirely – usually small alder – but sometimes I was rewarded with the tiny grey “kittens” poking out from under their brown coverings.
No need to walk in the woods now; I just go to the corner of the yard to see how my bushes are progressing. I’ve had to admit that I miss those spring treasure hunts. Maybe providing my own “treasure” has spoiled some of my fun. In fact, perhaps the process was rather more important than the result.
Since I have become aware of this possibility, I wonder if I have missed the point in other ways. After all, when I meet a friend for coffee, it’s not the coffee or tea I look forward to, it’s the visit, and although I enjoy eating a good meal, I also really enjoy cooking it. The harvest from my vegetable garden is wonderful, but it does not eclipse the months of joy I get being outside, watching the weather, clipping dead branches, and transplanting new seedlings.
This spring, like all springs, will be a celebration of life’s renewal, of light returning where there has been darkness, the turning of our part of the planet toward the sun. These events happen whether or not I notice them, but when I do notice them, the noticing enriches my life. The process seems to be the point.
After I realized that my “logical” solution to the pussy willow ritual wasn’t exactly as I expected, I went for a walk in the woods along one of my usual routes and found myself automatically checking for the wild pussy willows as usual. There, I spotted a very small, bright yellow skunk cabbage growing in the muddy ditch. In spite of its questionable name and reputation, the sunny colour seemed to announce the coming of spring to me. I wonder where else they grow?