by Jessica Kuzmier
One of the sure signs of spring in upstate New York is the sound of rushing water. Spring sun melts snow, dripping it into liquid form along streams, rivers, and banks. Ditches become rivers, and rivers become torrents. The clash of cold and warm fronts squeeze their battle wounds into raging waters abounding everywhere. Some places become flood zones as the water rises over the banks into their homes and businesses, abodes a nuisance to the water that needs to go where it needs to go, and nothing will stop it from doing what it needs to do. In other places, it was a though a birthing had taken place as dry culverts metamorphosized into waterways.
After a winter of being confined indoors more than I usually wanted to be, it was always a great thing to go out and witness these buckets of water clamoring over each other to get- what? Attention? The chance to crest at the top of waves that normally wouldn't be there? It was as though these droplets, who had spent so much time in the sky as a cloud, wanted to jump and fly through the air one more time before being buried in the depths below the surface. They were going places, sometimes after being locked and buried under ice and snow, sometimes for months. I would follow them, also coming unburied after months of being under ice, and too much time behind a computer.
The landscape in the early months of spring, or in many cases, the last months of winter, was one that waxed and waned from being painted white to brown, sometimes being speckled with both. Depending if one was on a hill or in a valley, the same day and same types of trees would create a different picture. State highway driving in a relatively rural area contained the experience of these colors blurring by in a haze, with houses creating a surprise blotch of extra color every so often: reds, white with black shutters, the grayness of roofs just waking up from a covered hibernation. Reaching any kind of downtown, the white of snow generally disappeared completely, except for white hills that looked like discarded salt or sugar. These piles, the remnants of snowplows dumping mounds of snow away from all-important parking lots, sidewalks, or streets would be the only indication that winter had even passed this way.
Winter's last mark and spring's upper hand were obvious on the waterways that usually made its placid life along the periphery, behaving itself and not interfering too much with the busy life of human activity. It could be easy to just cross a bridge or drive alongside a river and not even notice that one of the most vital substances in human life was having its own day of being concurrently with grocery shopping, business life and the usual comings and goings of the humans it served. But now, it rushed, roared, like a neglected child who had been kept silent too long and would be no more. It demanded to be noticed.
I enjoyed standing along the banks of rivers and streams that sang in these annual choruses, announcing the arrival of spring along the latitude I called home. Living in a temperate zone that had summers of heat and winters of cold, it was easy to resort to the thinking that the vernal equinox was supposed to herald some change in temperature. In this scenario, the sun was supposed to be reign supreme as a benevolent gardener to burgeoning life, and the prospect of snow boots was some kind of distant dream that could be put on hold until sometime in December. As it was, this was not always the way it went: snow sometimes fell in May, coating the new shoots of May flowers in a white powder like some mutant pixie dust. But, never mind what sometimes happened or didn't happen. A March snow melt always seemed like the beginning of spring and warm days to me. Time to leave the house and explore the world of the outdoors more closely. Time to wake up from the slumber of winter, to move out of torpor. The rage of water was a force against this inertia; time to wake up from the sleep of the long night.
Witnessing to this birthing of spring was a kind of baptismal ritual to me. Water of life rushed through to give new life, to begin a new way of being. The beginning of things precluded the end of other things. Ice and snow transformed into water, and the water went its ways carrying life and other beings to other places. Birds that had sought winter food in other locales would begin to make its way north again to their mating places to begin a new cycle of life again. The beginning of life waking up was the other side of the veil of what was regarded as the darkness of death and endings. A time to live, a time to die: the waters that ran through in the lengthening of days seemed to symbolize the time to live. A time to sleep, a time to wake up: the rushing waters was an alarm clock to put aside the world of winter and begin the migration to the live of spring.
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