Blog : Orioles

Colors

Colors

By now, we all know that things haven’t been going our way. We started out with that winter, so intent on enjoying it and skiing it and sledding it, scraping and shoveling it, too. But what happened wasn’t anything like that. We skied, a bit. Shoveled, a bit. Scraped, some. But the winter had come and the winter has left and nothing really happened. It was a winter without. We knew what would come next, and we waited and we waited and in February it came. Bright spring. Sunny spring. Warm and soft, spring.

That was a few days, maybe four, and it was February and no one thought it was really spring. Winter returned, but it was easy winter, annoying winter, just enough winter to ward off spring.  That winter relapse was quickly forgotten and there have been days of spring, days of warm, soft sun, and days of wicked wind, biting cold. Then the rains came, so many rains with so much water, sheets and sheets and buckets and buckets. No one thought it could last, but it did, and it washed our streets and soaked our lawns and filled our lakes.  The season isn’t so much spring, it’s just a rainy winter.

There are barns between my house and this desk. Many barns. Most are clad in metal, some form of sheet paneling either vertical or horizontal, typically in fleshy tones of white, gray, or brown. In the winter landscape, these barns blend in, offering no excitement, no allure, just utilitarian usefullness. But there is one barn painted the brightest of reds, and in the winter it is a beacon on my drive, a visual reminder that color exists even in the dullest of dark winters. In the spring, too, when the ground is gray and what isn’t is brown, and the tans of the cut corn stalks and the dull olive of the roadside grass means everything is quiet and stark, that barn shines bright and vivid, a reminder of color in an otherwise colorless world.

But these rains and this sky and this gray and this brown, it’s not all bad. My eyes can rest under this sky. There’s no strain here, no squint to see beyond the glow, because there is no glow. It’s just March in Wisconsin and things are easy on the eyes. The north side of Geneva Street is greening this morning.  The grass is greening and the bulbs are shooting and the crocus is blooming. The dull wrens of winter are being crowded out by the orange breasted robins of spring, and soon, the elusive Orioles will coast in on a southerly breeze in search of our fresh cut oranges and our purple grape jelly.  The piers are falling into place, now dulled and chipped by the winter but soon scraped and painted and bright again. The water is warming, slowly, but it’s warming and it’s still blue, even in the face of so much gray it is still blue. The grass is greening and the flowers are awakening and the sky is brightening and soon it’ll be the spring we’ve seen in our minds all winter. Prepare your eyes, the color is coming.

 

Photo courtesy Kirsten Westlake

 

Spring

Spring

Spring started a couple of months ago. I guess it was in March. March is when spring starts, the calendar says. Before that, it’s winter. And when spring ends, it’ll be summer. That’s how this whole thing works. Spring comes and the birds chirp and the grass greens and the weeds need pulling. Yesterday, some animals ate the tops off of some poppies that are growing in my garden. The tops, right off. Now I have to deal with that, which is an issue for me, because I’m busy and it’s my birthday and I don’t feel like shooshing away poppy eating varmint. I can’t kill them, because I’m still too soft. Even at this grizzled age I can’t kill things.

When spring started, it started with some wind and some rain and then some snow, still with the wind.  Rain again, wind. Windy, some sun, rain.  We had good weekends during this spring, more good than bad, in fact. That’s not something anyone would debate. The weekends, three of the last four, have been really solid. This weekend that starts right about now is going to be lame, so just plan on it. Three out of five isn’t bad, especially for spring. Because spring, with its birds and its flowers and all the greening, it’s really a terrible season. It’s good for, almost literally, nothing.

Sure we can shake off winter, slowly. But that’s because we have no choice. We can’t abandon winter and jump to summer, because when we make that jump we have to stay nimble, because we’re just going to end up jumping back. Boating on Sunday, shivering on Monday. Rain on Tuesday. Sun on Wednesday! Wind Thursday. Rain Friday. Tolerable Saturday. Sunny Sunday! This is the cycle and who could love it? Not me, not now, and I don’t care about the birds singing and the grass growing and the rest of it.

And what of these birds? What are they? I love when the Sandhill Crane honks and calls its way across the sky. A hunter told me this year that those birds are delicious. He said he’s heard from other people that they are the Filet of the Sky. Sounds delicious, I thought, and when he said it I could see that he knew about the taste from experience, and then I wondered what he does in those dark, deep woods he owns. I wouldn’t ever tell you that a bird I’ve never eaten is the Filet of the Sky, even if I’d read it in a book somewhere.  And the birds at my feeders, they’re not the good kind of birds. Another neighbor has Orioles. Bushels and flocks and baskets full of Orioles. I have a feeder dedicated to the Oriole and they don’t even consider it. Two years ago I did, but not this year. Not last year, either. My neighbor gets them all, and so I’m left with my wrens. I am the Wren King, which isn’t really such an incredible thing. I’d rather be the Oriole King, and they’d call me Cal.

But on Facebook some people have said Happy Birthday, so that’s something spring is good for. Another year older. Milestones, not really. There are no milestones in middle age, just decade markers. I’ll be at a new decade two springs from now, and then I’ll write something about it, assuming I’m still here writing three days a week, even though that’s unlikely if you don’t actually email me to tell me you’re ready to buy a house. Come to Lake Geneva, where we have so much spring we can hardly take it! We have sun and rain and wind and green and birds and poppy-eating rabbits, usually we even have them all on the same day.