Spring’s Sweet Rituals

By Brenda Buchanan

Winter’s cold, dead fingers were pried away from Southern Maine this week.

No one mourned.

A woodpecker in spring. Not my guy, who is too wily for me to get a shot of him drumming.

This year’s transition to spring demanded the same kind of emotional fortitude one needs to get over a bad head cold that gives way to a nagging cough. But on April 8 nature flipped its switch, and now signs of spring are everywhere.

A male woodpecker drums each morning on a maple tree in our front yard. Finally warm enough to sleep with a window open, there’s no ignoring the boisterous love song as he marks his romantic territory. But after a March that seemed to last 62 days rather than 31, fresh nighttime air is well worth the un-muffled racket of an eager-to-mate woodpecker.

In other bird news, the goldfinches are showing off their spring plumage, red-winged blackbirds were flashing about at the pond behind Scarborough Beach last Sunday, and a snowy egret stood posed as though for a portrait in the marsh along Black Point Road.

The arrival of red-winged blackbirds heralds the change of season.

In a few weeks the warblers will arrive with their fabulous songs. We’ll grab our binoculars and make the trek to a few favorite birding spots to see who’s migrating through, one of the year’s happiest rituals.

We raked the winter mulch off the tulip beds on Sunday and crocus are popping up all over the yard. One evening this week we’ll give the shade garden its annual compost snack then wait for the hostas and ferns to emerge.

Tulips-to-be in our front garden, now that the snow has melted and winter mulch has been raked away.

Soon we’ll plant seed in a raised garden bed fitted with a cold frame and a month later we’ll be eating our own salad greens, spinach and chard.

A tangle of winter attire, finally removed from the back seat of my car.

My heavy parka has been relegated to the back of the closet where its lightweight sister will join it soon. Come hell or late snow, the only boots I’ll wear for the next eight months or so will be hikers. My snow boots are packed away in favor of regular shoes, sneakers and—soon—sandals.

The pile o’ hats, mittens and scarves that lived in the back seat of my car for the past several months have been replaced with a Red Sox cap, just in time for the start of the season.

One night last week I stayed up way too late watching a 0-0 game into the twelfth inning, when a dramatic three-run homer broke the tie and gave us the win.

Spring headwear

I struggled through the offseason more than ever this year. Since November the TV has been something to avoid, but the Sox make it safe to pick up the clicker again.

This weekend we’ll wash the windows and put up the screens.

The bikes are winking at me from the back of the garage. Time to pump up the tires.

Soon the flannel sheets will be replaced with cotton and the grill will start to get regular use.

In the meantime we’re listening for the first peepers of the season, welcome music that serves the same happy purpose as the woodpecker’s rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat call for companionship.

Every wonder how such tiny frogs make so much noise? Here’s your answer.


Brenda Buchanan is a former newspaper reporter with deep respect for small town journalism. The three books in her Joe Gale Mystery Series (Quick Pivot, Cover Story and Truth Beat) feature an old-school reporter with modern media savvy who covers the Maine crime beat. Brenda can be found on the web at www.brendabuchananwrites.com.


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15 Responses to Spring’s Sweet Rituals

  1. kaitlyn dunnett says:

    Had to chuckle reading this. This was the week I swapped flannel sheets for cotton.

  2. C.T. Collier says:

    Monday morning, three of us headed for Montezuma Wildlife Refuge here in the Finger Lakes and spent hours enjoying the sunshine and the bird life. The expert at the Visitors Center focused the scope on a Eurasian Teal traveling with the Green Wing Teals. Four of the Osprey nests are in use. Our bird list spilled onto a second page. Joyful day!

    • The teals sound amazing! It is so much fun to go birding with serious birders, isn’t it? During the warbler migration here in Portland a naturalist from Audubon is at the ponds at the rear of Evergreen Cemetery early each morning to lead a warbler walk. It is a terrific way to start the day.

  3. Dick Cass says:

    Baseball begins–Sea Dogs game today. And my fly rods are strung.

  4. Sennebec says:

    Pruning apple trees, mining the ditches for returnables and a bonfire of dead and pruned branches on the garden to replenish the soil.

    • Have fun with your pruning, ditch exploration and spring bonfires, John. Living in the ‘burbs these days, pruning is the only one of those we do now, but in the past, ditching and burning have been on the spring ritual list.

  5. Lea Wait says:

    Celebrating the appearance of crocuses! Replacing storm windows with screens … and just putting away the “snakes” on the window sills and sashes until next winter. In Boothbay Harbor, an owner of a small business, and one of my FB friends, asked politely, that her neighbors in town take down their Christmas wreaths. Water has been turned on for residents of Southport Island (to live there full-time you need a well) and yesterday I saw someone re-painting Red’s Eats, in Wiscasset. Signs of spring!

    • You had me at Red’s Eats, Lea. Love that place, especially early in the season before the crowds descend.

      In recent weeks we’ve made a game of noting houses where Christmas wreaths still hang. How funny that you do the same.

      And yes, summer water. When we lived on Peaks the population began to grow when PWD turned on the summer water, allowing those with seasonal cottages to return.

      Happy Spring!

  6. From the High Sierra I congratulate you on enticing Spring to come to Maine. This winter we and our many ski areas had over twice as much snow as in a normal year. 670 feet supposedly. Ski lifts had to be dug out of the snow before they could be used. My house, at 6,700 ft, had about 8 feet or more of snow on the roof. I couldn’t see the road (a school bus route) because of the 10 ft snow walls. My husband hiked all of February in Patagonia (warm!) so I had to hire a snow blower guy to dig out the constantly changing 5-6 feet of snow in my driveway. March was a little better, but still massive walls on all roads at Tahoe level, 6,200 ft and above. The last week we only had about 6 inches one day and less others. Today it’s sprinkling. Our 9,000 ft pass (highest one always open, is the rumor) over which we go to Reno from the Tahoe Basin still has sporadic chain controls or closures. More snow tonight. No daffodils here (deer, and bears–still hibernating– eat tulips). Still wearing a ski jacket to hike in town. Spring by July 4?

    • Sherie, you are an intrepid one! 670 feet? Eight feet of snow on the roof? Ten-foot walls of snow on the side of the roads? I have no business whining about our gray, cold, snowy March.

      Actually a friend was driving over that pass near Tahoe two days ago and sent photos of a snow-splattered windshield, so I know your season has been slow to start, too. But I didn’t realize how slow.

      All best wishes for a steady (not fast!) thaw and green grass long before the Fourth.

  7. Lea Wait says:

    Wow, Sherie! You’re in a different world. Hope the thaw comes slowly. All that snow melting has to go somewhere … with hopes your dream of a snow-free July 4 comes true!!

  8. Barb Ross says:

    Coming to Maine–that’s our spring routine. See you all in 10 days!

  9. Sandra Neily says:

    Oh Brenda, that was GREAT! It was just like a to do list that I have yet…to do, but somehow I felt like your neighbor looking in. Nice!

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