*original writing date: June 2006*
I don’t know if I have ever, in the words of Thornton Wilder, “realized life” as deeply as I have attempted to do here. That phrase from the play Our Town has resonated in my mind more than once as I have felt the surge of life in the returning spring.
Perhaps it is because this was the first winter I have spent in many years where the word actually meant something. The dark days, the unbelievably cold temperatures, the fierce wind and freezing rain all combined to give us an experience heretofore unknown in my desert-raised kids’ lives. It was winter of a type that I personally hadn’t experienced since leaving Salt Lake City and its cold and gray winter months, back in 1984. So to say that the return of the spring was a welcome thing is to make an understatement of epic proportions. And now I am here to tell all that Spring Happens.
The first evidence that the seasons were going to change was the crocus that began popping through the frozen ground in late February. Little color spots pushing their way through the soil to reach out to the sun. It was an absolute delight to watch those flowers beat the odds of growing in freezing temperatures and hardened earth. Indeed, for me they were little pockets of inspiration along the streets. Following the crocus was the daffodil, or narcis, as they are called in Dutch. Gorgeous bands of yellow and white stretching along the canals and highways, nodding their perfect cup and saucer heads at passersby. After the daffodil the tulips arrived. And let me tell you this; all the postcards, all the photo books, all the legend tales you have heard about the fields of color—it’s all accurate and true. Amazing. Unbelievable. Overwhelming. There is no superlative strong enough to convey the absolute beauty of the tulip fields and gardens. We toured Keukenhof gardens and the open fields of Lisse by bike one afternoon in May. It was absolutely unbelievable. The fields literally look as if someone took a giant paintbrush and swept vibrant washes of color across the land. Even the best photos can hardly capture the intense beauty of that land in springtime.
Not to be outdone by the reputation of the tulip, the final stage of spring flowers brought the lily and iris. These lined the canals and towered over the returning green of the grasses and groundcovers announcing that the majesty of spring had indeed arrived. This phase of the flowering is the spring finale.
The arrival of the lily coincides with the temperatures hitting steady warmth and the shedding of the heavy winter coats. At this point in the parade of flowers it seemed something within all of us awakened and opened up for the sun. In the same way that the flowers unfolded and blossomed, the people returned to life.
It’s a remarkable thing to witness the reawakening of a city.
Streets that stood empty and lonely during the cold winter, all of a sudden were alive with people.
The café tables moved to the streets for leisure dining in the fresh air.
The canal again busy with boats also hosted the occasional adventurous swimmer.
Garden benches and front walks became perfect spots for neighbors to engage in pleasant conversation. Just as you imagine those conversations revolved around the weather and generally began with the phrase “Lekker weer, he?” Which means “fantastic weather, don’t you think?”
I used to consider myself a lover of the autumn, but now having lived a springtime in Holland, I have discovered a new identity. The moment that topped it all for me was watching the Horsechestnut trees blossom with perfect cones of pink flowers balanced on the branches. And then when just passing their prime moment of glory the petals fell ever so gracefully to the ground, littering the streets with delicate baby-pink confetti. It’s a Mother Nature party favor.
Yup, I am a spring girl after all.
Monday, May 11
*original writing date: June 2006*