This is what I heard. This is what I heard this morning. This is what I heard this morning when I walked outside into sunshine. When I walked outside into air that was warm and slightly cloying. This is what I heard: the songs of at least six different birds rising up gently from the branch like the voice of a mother waking her sleeping child. This is what I heard: the drip drip drip of water off the roof onto the curved mouth of the gutter, a message delivered by tom-tom.
This is what I saw. This is what I saw this morning. This is what I saw this morning when I stepped out onto the grass and crossed the yard. When I tilted my head and stared up at the tip top of the sycamore tree where a few scattered seed pods still clung to the branches. This is what I saw: drops of dew clinging to tiny buds as though impervious to the pull of gravity, drops of dew shaped like tears and clear as a prism. This is what I saw: dandelions, flat and green, leaves splayed out like a first grader’s drawing of the sun and spindly stems of wild verbena sprouting fingers of purple — rolled tight still, but aching to unfurl.
Every year, it seems, I find myself struggling toward spring, weary and weakened by the short days, the cold nights. Every year I fall toward some invisible finish line, like Philippides bearing the news of the victory at Marathon, not dead, but nearly so. This year, especially, I have been worn down by sympathetic misery for the people in Boston and Buffalo and Syracuse. Watching the videos of cars careening over iced highways and snow plows creating mountains along residential streets, I whisper a prayer of supplication for anyone who is cold and a prayer of thanksgiving that my weather extremes involve gnats and humidity.
So it was that I opened the back door this morning and realized that I did not need a coat — not even a sweater. Opened the back door and felt my eyes narrow against brightness both so foreign I hardly recognized it and so familiar I wanted to rush into its arms. Opened the back door and breathed in air that did not burn my throat.
And this is what I knew. This is what I knew standing in the light, standing in the breeze, standing in the music of the morning: The earth has survived another winter. By doing nothing more than resting and remaining, it has defeated the darkness. No orbit was changed. No axis adjusted. No atmosphere altered.
As the realization rolled over me, I walked around the yard to take its pulse. Weeds already sprouting in the herb garden; mint escaping its borders; dead leaves from the oak and sycamore trees choking the iris and day lily stalks. Winter always leaves a trail.
Stopping myself just before I bent down to pull a handful of trespassing green, I realized that there was something else I knew: I knew that I, too, have survived another winter. Somehow. Some way. Through no effort and despite all the complaining.
It is amazing what happens when one does nothing but wait.
I doubt that I will ever be a lover of the dim season. I suspect that I will always face down the cold and dark with belligerence and anger and the smallest amount of whining. But, like Philippides, I will finish. I will see the winter through and I will welcome each spring as though it is the first that has ever been, echoing his final words, "Joy to you, we've won! Joy to you!"