Friday, March 13, 2009

Signs of Spring

We have a newspaper clipping on our fridge. It is an black and white photo, fourteen years old. It's laminated, with three creases from being folded in an envelope, and from it shine the faces of three midwestern children, perched in a tree. Their eyes lift up towards the right of the photograph, past the edges of the frame towards some unseen specter. Dressed in grubby knees and too-big sweatshirts, they wrap their thin arms around the branches of a bare tree, holding, waiting. A few small leaves can be seen, starting their life, but we can tell it is cold, that the grass would be just as grey if the picture was in color.

The caption reads: "Looking for Spring."

The tomboy in the center of the photo is my roommate, and she tells me it was mostly staged. Some Madison reporter from the Wisconsin State Journal looking for a suitable image had stumbled upon three kids, mesmerized by a trapped pigeon in the attic of a neighbor's house. He stopped, called out to them, and asked to take their photo. The only problem was, their attention was focused on a spot just above the photographer, so he had them shift their gaze, had them look up to his right, up into an empty, cold sky. The skepticism in their faces reads clear - there are no signs of spring, no pigeons in this new vision - just empty sky. Nevertheless, the photo made the presses, and fourteen years later, it has made it to the door of our freezer.

My roommate's face has hardly changed since then. Neither has her skepticism. But now it is March, and we find ourselves searching the sky, cherishing the tiny green leaves on the all but bare trees, spotting an out-of-place seagull flying high above the railroad tracks that cross under Holgate Boulevard: Looking for signs of Spring.

I made it out to People's Farmers Market this week, a year-round venture. This time of year, it's the same handful of farmers with the same bounty - some cold weather greens, potatoes, some mushrooms, and the stalwart Daikon radish - a baker or two, and booth touting some perfect goat cheese. The difference this week was not on the tables, it was not for sale. It was the sun, crashing down through the bitterly cold air, casting a light on the sorrel and French red fingerlings, and the bee pollen, and the 100% rye, and the tiny kale starts in black soil - only 25 cents.

My eyes were fixed not in the sky, not on the lone cloud that held no trace of rain, but on the boxes of jewels from under the ground, the potatoes that had come out from the frost-battered soil to sit here, in the sun. Those potatoes have been around for a few months. But here, in the light of a wednesday evening after the time has shifted forward one hour, allowing me to pretend that I can go out of the house in less than two sweaters and a peacoat, they are new. New potatoes, signs of spring.


  1. I'm still looking for rhubarb; that's my sign. I found it in mid-February last year. This year, nothing yet.

  2. What a beautiful post! The sunshine makes so much difference and it has been out in sweet abundance lately. Thank you for sharing your encouraging perspective. There are jewels all around us in every season. Sometimes we just need a little help to see them!