Birds of A Feather

Cormorant with outspread wings on a rock in the lake

All nature takes the plunge into Spring

I felt like a cat stretching out in the sunlight as I walked along the creek on a brilliant March day. When fall turns to winter my whole being curls inward for warmth. Both mind and body contract, protecting the soft inner core of my being against an increasingly alien environment. I am content to stay with the cat not far from the fire. The months of cool–sometimes cold–damp days had narrowed my vision. But this first burst of spring erupting from the cold pool of days made me unfold more rapidly than a snowflake melts in a sunbeam.

I was not the only one on this balmy Sunday to come alive, throw open the doors and the windows, head for the sunlight. There were hikers, bikers, roller-bladers, shoppers, gardeners, runners, and lovers everywhere. Nine and ten-year olds played softball in the park. Volleyball nets were raised. Smoke from a few backyard barbecues curled skyward.

These early days of first spring distill the sometimes subtle, but delicious, flavors the season offers. Spring is a time to relax the body and unfurl the spirit. As daylight and warmth beckons, anything seems possible. I can believe I will have time to plant the garden, paint the house, take weekend trips to the city and the country, wash the car, go to the park, visit oft-neglected friends, hang up the hammock, nap in the sun. The list is endless.

Everywhere the impossible seemed possible. A poppy had taken root in a crack in the concrete of the bridge spanning the creek. It grew more vigorously than it might in a well-tended garden. The creek, funneling the most recent rains along its rocky bed, was alive with aerial displays of birds and insects intoxicated by the sunlight. On a large rock a cormorant perched putting on a show that clearly mirrored my feeling.

The bird, obviously a regular (I could tell by the wash of white on the large boulder it claimed) dove into the torrent, popped up a few yards downstream and flew back to the sunny rock. A shimmy traveled down its body from head to tail sending droplets of water flying in all directions. Two or three more shakes and a waggle loosened its feathers. As it stood soaking up sun, it slowly turned from sleek to plump, gradually settling on the rock until it stood without twitching a feather. After several minutes this reverie ended. With a shift in position it turned toward the sun and lifted its wings. And there it stood, fully outstretched, motionless, sharing a day we all understood.

Spring may be my favorite season. But I know I am fickle. Give me some months and I’ll trade it for summer. And maybe, in time, I’ll yet long for winter. But cats, cormorants, poppies, lovers, children and I know when days grow long and sun shines bright, the time has come to stretch out for the light.