I smelled deeply the aspen leaves this morning. Holding the cluster of leaves to my face, I smelled their sweetness. I smelled new life determined to express itself. I felt the coming fullness of the new season. Peering up at the changing canopy, I saw the promise of spring delivered.
Searching out wood anemones and trilliums this morning, I wondered, had I as a child been given a camera, a photo album of native plants and a woodlot to investigate, would my life have taken a different trajectory? Would I have become a biologist? A naturalist? A wildlife artist? A writer? A poet? Would my questions today be different? Had I crawled as a child through the underbrush of a greening woodlot and seen the unfolding of a fern or the pushing up of a mushroom, had I been witness to spring’s first blossoms – blue hepatica, pink anemone, lavender violets, wild strawberries – had I touched the pollen of the willow catkin or learned the crimson colors of the flowering box elder, would I be a different person than I am today?
In her essay Upstream, the poet Mary Oliver wrote –
Teach the children….show them the daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen…give them the fields and the woods…stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms.
Oliver, Mary. “Upstream.” Upstream: Collected Essays. New York: Penguin Press, 2016.
The tractors are in the fields now. The cold and snow of the final days of April are a distant memory. I visit the shrubline daily to chronicle the changes. The trembling aspen burst into leaf yesterday. Today the Juneberry shrubs stand on the cusp of flowering. Honeysuckle bushes have filled with green. Wild roses, bending under the weight of their new leaves, remind me not to touch their stems. The chokecherry trees and hawthorns are in a race to leaf. Plum trees prepare to blossom. New nests appear in saplings. Bumblebees gather pollen on emergent catkins. Sparrows sing. Hawks hunt.
Had I been given a camera as a child, had I known the names of the trees, the birds and plants around me, would my life have taken a different trajectory? Such a question cannot be answered. But I can tell you this: today the world is alive with newness. Today I am alive within it.