I heard the winds sing in the hardwoods.
February 19, 2014
A VG Serial: Hills of Eden
In this hush, a faint stirring, a mere whisper on the precipice of dawn. A sliver of green nudges upward through moist, loamy soil, white-boned, born in the darkness, the moon has tugged at its senses, brought forth a longing for the sun with its golden light. Even now that slender shoot is turning green, green as an emerald.
A breeze is born, flourishes as if some hidden tap had been turned on, releasing that first freshet. In the breeze, a stirring whisper, a small voice calling across the earth, bidding the buds and grass to come forth, perfume the land, turn it softly from brown to green. There is a light, like the first dawning before time began, and the dark sky melts in the east, turns to ashes that fade away like smoke from yesterday’s forsaken fire. The alchemy of morning changes the pale light to gold, and the gold pours across the fields like molten honey, gentle as a hand gloved in soft velvet.
In this way, Spring comes to the Ozarks, sliding off the icy shoulders of Winter like a girlish shawl cast away by a woman grown. There is a new lilt to the melody of the creeks; the last dirty icicle stalk breaks off the craggy bluff and falls onto the muddy bank below, a crystal jewel banished from it regal crown, vanishing in a quiet torrent that washes away all traces of kingly glory.
The light zephyrs born in the night stretch and grow into breezes, rivers of air sliding down from the high ridges, wending in whispers through the trees, cool at first, then warming in the sun. These breezes take on muscle, their tendons gathering force, and become the fabled leonine winds of March chasing after the lambs that humans hope will gambol into April.
There is a chirp on the wind, as a meadowlark, sitting atop a fencepost, flaps its wings, stretches its throat to break into its morning song, a chromatic trilling of notes that slide up and down the scale with perfect pitch. There is now a harmony to the morning as the redbuds sprout their crimson flowers on the hillside and the dogwood blossoms fill the green hills with bright lights as white as the snow that wrapped their trunks in ermine a mere month ago.
The old timers plant the potatoes they have stored in the spring house or the cellar, tubers already sprouting from their eyes, on St. Patrick’s day. This is a tradition brought over from the Old Country. Some in the Ozarks still hitch the mule to a plow and plant the old-fashioned way, while others trot out the Kabota or the John Deere and dig, turning over the rich soil still chill from winter’s grip. Cherry blossoms and berry buds, Irises and crocuses, wild strawberries pushing up through the leafy compost that fell on them in the fall, and choruses of flowers in barren fields begin to yawn and stretch, awakening from deep sleeps, like chickens pipping through eggshells. There is a wonder here as if you are observing a great mind at work in some mysterious way.
The deciduous trees, the trees that were bare and encased in ice stand as silent sentinels over all this burgeoning life, their limbs spewing little sprigs of green and red, golden tassels, fragrant blossoms that flutter and dance on the swaying limbs like ballet dancers emerging from the wings on a bare stage.
The multitude of transformations is startling to any who would observe the magnificent process. Spring in the Ozarks, as elsewhere, has become a tradition, almost commonplace, despite the visual delights it brings to all who look and listen. The wind seems to play a great role in all the seasons, for in the fall, it strips the trees of dead leaves and gives us a glimpse into the deep woods, the lake that has lain there, invisible, all summer long. We can see the animal paths and the outlines of ridges, the contour of hollows, the very essence of the mystery that has kept hidden the deer, the turkey, the gray and fox squirrels, the quail, all the birds nestled behind lush boughs while their songs float through veils of green curtains concealing the singers.
Mark Twain wrote about part of the mysterious process of rebirth that comes with the spring winds, most eloquently and beautifully, and we cannot improve upon his exquisite vision and insight:
“Then the wind waves the branches,” he wrote, “and the sun comes out and turns all those myriads of beads and drops to prisms that glow and burn and flash with all manner of colored fires , which change and change again with inconceivable rapidity from blue to red, from red to green, from green to gold—the tree becomes a spraying fountain, a very explosion of dazzling jewels, and it stands there, the acme, the climax, the supremest possibility in art or nature, of bewildering, intoxicating, intolerable magnificence.”
Twain finishes up, by saying, “One cannot make the words too strong.”
And, after all this, with the wind singing in the hardwoods, the colors peeping out from every corner of the world, the birds proclaiming dominion and reincarnation, with the first blush of an Ozarks spring on our faces and in our hearts, we search for the camera that will claim and portray it, for the paints on the easel that will capture it all on canvas, and the words to describe and explain it. Alas, we cannot hope to match the subtleties, the glory, the harmony, the melody, that touches us each newborn Spring in these Ozarks hills.
We are left only to watch and wonder as we swim in these exhilarating rivers of wind that blow so far and warm over this enchanted land, and beside the rows of potatoes, plant seeds that will become our garden.
Hills of Eden will be published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Please click the title, Hills of Eden, to read more about Jory Sherman and his books.