Spring is rolling out previews this month. Like a captivating trailer from a lushly orchestrated block-buster movie, Spring is previewing herself here in the northwest in gorgeous snapshots of tiny color, and in the softest breath of warm air on a cold cheek. “Coming soon to a continent near you! Springtime! Starring all your old-time favorites! Robins! Daffodils and dogwood buds and crocus blooms! Soundtrack by the combined symphonies of frogs, meadow larks, and rushing streams all coming together in this once-in-a-year, you-don’t-want-to-miss-it event! In 3-D!! And full surround sound!
Amidst all this enchantment, Winter is working hard to keep me in her wraps as long as she can. She is wanting me to remain still, reflective, and inside myself, so she handed me a whopper of a head-cold-allergy thing, which–owing to the pounds of mucous drainage from my sinuses—does manage to keep me from launching my energy outward where it longs to be. Too stuffy, much too stuffy, to get all worked up and excited and active. So I’ve been watching the spring previews primarily from my bedroom window. And it is a tantalizing view: birds winging and singing and dancing in the yard, the first sprigs of yummy chickweed sprouting beneath my window (already in flower!), the operatic bellows of the peeper frogs at night. Heaven!
Yesterday morning, the seductive enticement of that girlish tease, Spring, finally lured me away from my Kleenex box and out into the yard. She had to work hard to get me past the front door, as it was a cold, gray morning, but once I took those first steps onto the porch, she seduced me entirely.
The first thing that caught my eye was the collection of old birdhouses Carter found at a garage sale weeks ago. They will need to be hung, but not here, not at a rental house. Too impermanent. Next, I caught sight of my garden tower standing out by the driveway. It was a little barren and sorry-looking with winter wear, but the white dome of the worm bin in the center called me over. I’d been wondering all winter if my little hard-working, compost-crazy red worms had survived the deep freezes of January. Curiosity finally got the better of me. I hurried back in the house and pulled on my girlie-girl pink muck boots. Making a quick stop in the bathroom, I yanked a few squares of toilet paper off the roll and jammed them up my nose. When Carter looked at me curiously, I told him the white blobs sticking out my nose were snow blossoms, and I was hoping to start a new fad. Who needs the pain of nose rings when you can sport attractive sprouts of paper out your nose?
I hurried back out of the house, before my momentum could fade, and grabbed a car mat to lay on the ground beneath the garden tower. At the bottom of the tower is a screw and a plug, which allows you to pull down all the contents of the interior kitchen-scrap tube. After much crawling (not a good design, let me tell you) and groaning and grunting, the plug fell away, and a long coil of last-year’s gunk spilled out. In the midst of all that gunk, which was surprisingly odorless and much drier than I expected, squirmed a mass of red worms. I squealed in delight and dug my fingers gently into the dark-brown, moist pile of root threads, egg shells, and mostly munched-up kitchen scraps. There were big worms and tiny worms, all sliding and writhing in that lovely dark worm compost. This discovery was cause for celebration, and I rushed into the workshop to tell Carter. I showed him the mass of wigglers in my hand and said, “Look! Look! They made it! And look at all the babies!”
Quickly replacing the white wads of tissue in my nose with a fresh batch from my back pocket, I got back onto my back to replace the plug in the bottom of the tube. There are no words to explain why a handful of worms would bring me such a blessed flush of energy, nor why what happened next would coax me into spending the next four or five hours outside. I was on my back when I caught a small flash of movement to my left. From the corner of my eye, I saw a nose protrude from beneath the corner of the car mat. I pulled the mat aside to reveal a full-sized brown salamander, blinking slowly in the morning mist. When I gathered her into my hands, she didn’t move much. Cold weather will do that to a salamander. Of course, I had to rush into the shop to show her to Carter.
I placed the salamander next to my planting containers and stones, changed my nose “blossoms” once again, and was then lured to the side of Mazel Tov’s small kiddie wading pool. I was hoping to find frog eggs in it, but it was empty.
In the background, my ears caught the sounds of birds, many birds, all singing a particularly joyful song, and although my hands were freezing cold, something spurred me into crafting the very beginnings of a temporary pond in the wading pool. A few old branches, a chunk of cinderblock, some river stones collected last summer, a large slab of mossy bark, the curly reed that seems to have made it through the winter—all these things made it into the wading pool. Had I been back in Indiana, I would have soon been putting together my yearly bath tub pond. I believe the spirit of that pond reached out and enfolded me and inspired this one.
Back in my container garden, I found the budding head of a columbine poking up through the cold soil, and the grass-like spears of some unknown bulb I’d planted last fall. Suddenly I was wanting very much to see what else was happening in the natural world. Yes, my nose was a problem, but I had been seduced by Spring, and was wanting to let her have her way with me. So Carter and I bundled up in jackets and headed off to the marshlands and swift currents of the Washougal River, just a mile or two down the road. Carter brought a fishing pole. I brought a bucket, a net, and a back pack. Mazel brought his ball. While Carter fished at the rocky edge of the river, I explored the sodden banks of the marsh pools, looking for life. Looking for signs of Spring. Looking just for the joy of looking. I bent down and turned over submerged rocks and old bits of wood. My eyes scanned the reeds for signs of frog eggs, or tiny fish, or maybe a crawdad.
My hands were cold, the water even colder, and the stones beneath my fingers slippery with marsh slime, but I could not keep my hands from seeking, turning, touching. There was an urgency in my hands, a longing, and behind all of that my old familiar sense of wonder. I pulled a small handful of some green floating pond plant and put it into my bucket. A few intriguing pieces of driftwood went into the bucket next. Then, a handful of small stones. In the next handful of greens, I found a small, gray frog, the size of the tip of my thumb. Whatever sort of frog he is, he is a stranger to me. He doesn’t bear the markings of any of the frogs I am familiar with, and all I know about him is that he is a youngster. He was near-catatonic from the cold, and he settled into my bucket without protest.
I said that there were no words for what pulled me out into the day and back into the world that waited outside the depressing confinement of my room, but there is a word, and it is “enticement.” Enchantment is the word I always fall back upon when describing my relationship with nature, and it is a fine word, but it does not evoke action. Enticement does. It is a word a bit like “beckon” or “impel” or “compel.” With enchantment, you can just sit there and groove in the bliss. When you are enticed, you are moved forward in a most mysterious sort of way. Enticement is a seductive word, a sensual word that carries within it the assumption of relationship. Something or someone does the enticing. And something or someone is enticed at the call.
Enticement is not a demanding sort of word. Lovers entice. Governments don’t. You are not pushed or forced or thrown into or yanked along when you are enticed. It is, rather, an invitation to something. Enticement is not a call to duty, or to responsibility. It is an earthy, wild call that reaches out to the soul, and it is only with the soul that we can respond to this muse, this siren.
I returned from the river yesterday afternoon and with no small sense of reverence, added the driftwood, the sand, the greenery, and the little frog to my temporary pond. Why temporary, you ask? Two weeks ago, we had an offer accepted on a little yellow house in the next-door town of Washougal. It is the first house within city limits that I will ever own. I’ll have neighbors all around me, and downtown Washougal is just a few blocks away. But the house is also just a few blocks away from the Washougal River. So we’ll be settling in-between both wild and human-centered worlds.
The little house has a surprisingly big yard with plenty of room for a garden, a small forest glen, and—of course—a pond of some sort. I find the house and the lovely yard quite enticing, to say the least. It has beckoned us gently and quietly. There is an aura of mystery to the place and its unknown history, and of possibility. And I’m so happy to have found a new nest. While I’m a gypsy at heart, my soul always craves the grounding of home.
This morning, I have Kleenex up my nose again and the day is cold and very dreary, but my beloved Spring is just outside the window, hooking her tempting green finger in a “come hither” kind of way. I can almost—almost—hear the red worms whistling as they work on the fresh garden scraps in the garden tower. Perhaps the frog in the wading pool is humming a favorite tune. And that salamander, that seductress, who knows where she has gone to now?
Believers in spring, wherever you are, may you succumb to Enticement. May you hear her soft call, and feel her welcoming arms around you. May you follow her down crooked paths and narrow paths wherever she leads. And may she bring you into Wonder.