The mid-February day was a bitter 18 degrees with deep snow everywhere.
And yet, as I walked along the river’s frosty shores there appeared before me a flock of mergansers frolicking and diving in the river’s icy current as if it was a summer day. Surprised, I looked again, but there was no doubt these were mergansers, the female mergansers’ rusty feathered peaks fluffed up like mini-hats; the black and white males bobbing jubilantly beside them.
Could it be on this bleak mid-winter day that, unbeknownst to us, spring was nearer than we thought?
And yet, despite the frigid cold, there were signs everywhere: big squares of ice floated down the river like rafts with ducks catching a ride; sparkling ribbons of water meandered through former ice fields; and the sweet sound of free-flowing water gurgled over rocks.
Pausing on a foot bridge to relish these unexpected gifts, I blinked again. For here came a blue heron, an old and ancient friend, flying low right over my head, its long legs stretched behind, its dusty gray wings like a sail pulling spring our way.
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I spotted a flock of robins along a sun-melted snowbank pecking in the dirt as if preparing the soil for wildflowers to spring forth.
Oh, how right Emily Dickinson was when she wrote, “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers”! And in this pandemic year, these much-welcomed signs assure us that, indeed, spring is on its way bringing with it the hope of more vaccines, of doors flung open, of arms embracing, of hearts rejoicing. Come, my feathered friends and lead the way.
Photo credit: LAURENT SILVANI PHOTOGRAPHIE / CC BY-SA 4.0