I saw the first robin of spring this week, two days before the official start of the season at 5:59 pm on Wednesday. Seeing it brought to mind the phone calls we’d receive at the Peekskill Herald every year from Joel Garson who ran the Cortlandt Nursing Care Center on Oregon Road. He would phone to report it was spring because he had seen the bird.
When I mentioned this to Kathy Daley, my partner who was the editor of the Herald, she told me she had spotted a robin pulling a worm out of the ground at her home in Jeffersonville in Sullivan County. And she reported that she had seen an already mated male and female Canada geese couple. “She was poking around eating and he was all puffed up in the breast, sternly keeping guard.”
The vernal (Latin for spring) equinox (Latin for equal night) is one of two times in the year when day and night are about the same length. This occurs because the earth rotates in such a way that the sun is lined up exactly with the equator. Everyone on the planet gets the same amount of sun and the same amount of dark for this 24-hour period. The earth’s axis is tilted neither toward the sun, nor away from it. It’s comforting for me to know that every person on the earth is experiencing the same thing from the natural world regarding light. And during this 24 hour period the darkness is not as intense because we are bathed in the glow from a full moon.
No wonder Kathy Daley recently saw a robin pulling up a worm from the soft ground. This month’s full moon, which happens to be the last of this year’s super moons, is called the full worm moon because the temperature is rising and earthworms begin to surface. The supermoon is when the full moon will be the closest to the earth at that time than it was the whole month of March. And it happens this year on the day of the vernal equinox. The March moon can also be known as a Crow Moon, Sap Moon, Sugar Moon or Lenten Moon. It begins to rise at 9:45 pm.
The sighting of the robin in Depew Park brought me such joy for the bird is one of the harbingers of spring, just like St. Patrick’s Day which is the signal to plant peas. Peas are one of the hardiest vegetables, able to withstand a chill, a frost and even a light snow. So on Sunday in the bright afternoon sun, I put the pea seeds in the dirt in a container that has been sitting atop my deck, getting lots of sunlight and making the soil soft.
My desire for spring, after the long winter’s slumber, pushed me into putting a baskets of primrose and pansies on the front porch and keeping an eye out for the spikes of crocuses.
The quiet occurrences of nature are uniquely captured by the poet Mary Oliver who died in January. She wrote of Spring and I share it here:
Somewhere a black bear has just risen from sleep and is staring down the mountain. All night in the brisk and shallow restlessness of early spring I think of her, her four black fists flicking the gravel, her tongue like a red fire touching the grass, the cold water. There is only one question: how to love this world. I think of her rising like a black and leafy ledge to sharpen her claws against the silence of the trees. Whatever else my life is with its poems and its music and its glass cities, it is also this dazzling darkness coming down the mountain, breathing and tasting; all day I think of her— her white teeth, her wordlessness, her perfect love.
Oliver poses the question of how to love this world? I take that to be relating to the natural world and one way I’ve found that happens is by paying attention. And in doing so, one encounters the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower.