Mike Mahoney is a sophomore studying Forest Ecosystem Science at ESF.
For all the talk of warmth and rebirth, spring is a really ugly season. Trails turn to mud pits and roads to rivers as the thaw begins to take hold, and the brown carcasses of what was left at the end of fall begin to reappear. The ground cover is a layer of partially decayed leaves, and all the damage the winter did is slowly revealed.
The thaw came early this year, after a mild winter, and yet the damage still is apparent throughout the cemetery. Trees have toppled, left and right, canopies crashing down onto the stones or buildings below. The roads are filled with potholes, the trails with footprints, and everything is wet.
I’m out walking, wearing a thin jacket and bad shoes, when I feel my feet go out from under me.
My first thought, after I hit the ground, is that I haven’t tasted mud in a long time. My second thought is that I hate early spring.
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This time of year, I learn to love the evergreens. The spruce and pine planted throughout the cemetery still bring a splash of green to the skyline, a welcome sign of life in a landscape dominated by bare trunks and grey clouds. I follow the evergreens for a time, heading into a forested area where the thaw is yet to hit. There’s a beauty in tree stands that I’ve never been able to capture. In my more poetic moments, I can talk about how trees, even though they’re fighting for their lives just like the rest of life on this Earth, do it with a quiet dignity, never breaking their vow of silence until they finally succumb to the tides of time. I can talk about the complex processes happening just centimeters under their bark, fluids flowing and ebbing in a dance not seen anywhere else. And I can talk about their stoic acceptance of being habitats for other life, their quiet servitude as young-hider and nest-holder.
Today, however, I am not feeling particularly poetic. Today, I am walking through the snow covered in mud and wearing bad shoes, and my feet are too cold for me to do much more than walk. Yet it still feels like enough – just walking, watching the trees drip onto the slushy ground. We all need a chance to just be, sometimes.
I decide to head back in, to change my clothes and thaw my toes. As I head out of the cemetery, I hear a sparrow chirping. Somewhere in the distance, he’s calling the spring in. Somewhere in the distance, he’s beckoning the thaw.