I grew up in the northern desert where long, harsh winters were followed by dry, hot summers. My siblings and I spent whole days outside building, swimming, exploring in the summer. Our winters were spent huddled around the pellet stove, making snow forts and sledding down the ditch embankment. Later my husband and I lived in a house that was so poorly insulated we only heated a portion of the 800 square feet, the dish soap froze in the kitchen, and visitors kept their coats on. The following summer I was very pregnant, and we had a swamp cooler but no air conditioning. I remember sitting on the edge of the bed in my underwear, big belly hanging out in the full blast of the cooler. Pure heaven.
Now living in western Washington, which has a very different climate, (everything is green!), I find myself shocked when in late February crocus are blooming and robins are visiting my unkempt yard. “Could this be true?” I ask myself in wonder and a bit of hope. “Is spring really on its way?”
Spring is my favorite season. After a dark and gloomy winter, spring brings hope for new things and change. Nature is waking up, taking a deep inhale. I start planning my garden and looking forward to leaving my front door open and sometimes I do, even at 48 degrees.
We saw our first fully bloomed crocus last week at the Taco Time drive thru. Crocuses are one of the first signs of spring, blooming even when there is still snow on the ground. They represent cheerfulness, youthfulness, and glee. That’s very appropriate as that’s exactly how I feel when I see one. That day at Taco Time I yelled, “Sign of spring!” and pointed to the flower bed next to our car. The kids were exuberant as well, for Taco Time and for the yellow blooms below. The ancient Romans liked crocus fragrance, which I find interesting as I’ve never actually smelled one. The fragrance was thought to inspire love. I recently learned that saffron, which is harvested by hand, comes from the crocus flower. It is the most expensive spice in the world and sometimes costs more than gold. It is an anti-carcinogen, antidepressant, and digestive. It’s also delicious.
Forsythia is another one of my favorite spring plants to bloom. It’s a shrub with small yellow flowers that bloom in early spring before it even has leaves. These are hard to miss, and we often point them out to one another when driving. I love to see it pruned in interesting shapes or wild and untamed growing every which way. Forsythia stand for anticipation. It has been used in medicine as a blood detoxifier, to treat headaches and fever, bronchitis and ear ache.
Daffodils, or narcissus, are a sure sign of winter’s end. They symbolize rebirth and new beginnings. They are a lucky emblem of future prosperity. In Wales it’s believed if you spot the first daffodil of the season your next twelve months will be filled with wealth. Yes, please! There are a few budding at the end of my street. I’ll just be down there waiting for them to bloom. I had no idea daffodils had so much to offer me personally. A bundle of daffodils is said to ensure happiness, but a single bloom given can foretell misfortune.
My street is lined with cherry blossom trees and yesterday I noticed a small handful of open blossoms. I was out there looking up and enjoying them when my husband asked, “What are you doing?” I suppose I did look silly in my jammies, cup of coffee in hand, looking up at our trees. But I can’t wait for them to bloom and for my street to be filled with their pink beauty. Cherry blossoms last only a few days, and they signify the beauty and brevity of life. They remind us to be mindful in the moment we inhabit and appreciate the life we have.
Nature and spring do that for me. They remind me to breathe deep and enjoy this moment here. They slow me down and bring peace to my busy life. I am thankful for that and for early springs and mild summers in western Washington.
Melissa Lee is an artist and writer, undercover as a stay-at-home mom in North Everett. She is passionate about gardening, slowing down, saying no and raising her three kids well. She has written for the Live in Everett Blog and you can find more of her writings and art on her blog The House of Lees.