Simply Living (First appeared in Orlando Sentinel April 26, 2010)
I've become aware over the last few weeks of a seasonal shift. Winter this year was especially harsh. Spring seemed in no hurry to make an entrance. March was colder than normal, with several false starts at warming temperatures, making it hard to believe that winter would ever end.
Then it happened. I flipped the calendar page to April, a month that in Florida has always meant ideal weather and, sure enough, I wasn't disappointed. Springtime took its time but finally arrived.
How do I know?
I know it is spring because every evening a whippoorwill sits on the irrigation spigot in the front yard to sing its repetitive tune. I hear its song through the open doors of the living room and bedroom. The doors are open because the weather is perfect.
I know it is spring because the mosquitoes think the weather is perfect too. Taking advantage of the warming weather and my open doors, they sneak inside during the day to torment me at night with their buzzes and bites.
I know it is spring because the loquat tree is full of fruit, and both white and black mulberries are ripe. Plump, juicy morsels of sweetness cover the limbs of the mulberry trees. What an amazing crop we have this year! It's too bad there won't be any left for us to enjoy.
I know it is spring because vast flocks of cedar waxwings have arrived, descending on the mulberry trees and devouring every berry in sight.
I know it is spring because plants are growing. The green leaves of passionflowers, rain lilies, amaryllis and other potential blooms are unfurling at a speedy rate.
I know it is spring because little black lubber grasshoppers are covering the leaves. The still soft, small bodies of these voracious eaters depend upon leafy food. In every chewed leaf they find nutrients needed to transform their half-inch selves into the 4-inch-long, thick-skinned pests they'll become by summer's end.
I know it is spring because the lawn has turned green. Nasty brown patches that looked dead a few months ago have responded to recent downpours with exuberant growth.
I know it is spring because the weeds have responded to downpours as well. Spiky stands of cow thistle dot the yard along with a tenacious assortment of weedy blooms. Some wildflowers are worth mowing around. Others are not.
I know it is spring because the lawn mower is busy keeping weeds and tall grasses at bay. The sound of its motor running competes with the whistles, trills and coos of songbirds in the trees.
I know it is spring because the smell of orange blossoms sweetens the air. Honeysuckle, brunfelsia and wisteria flowers infuse the atmosphere with a heady perfume.
I know it is spring because weird-looking stinkhorn mushrooms have popped up in the moist soil. When mistakenly kicked over, these red fungi have a notorious stench.
I know it is spring because animals are entering nesting mode. Carolina wrens, cardinals, little gray catbirds and even wild turkeys are showing signs of nest building.
I know it is spring because wasps and mud daubers also have begun building their nests … in the garage and under the house eaves.
Spring is a wonderful time of year. It's full of hope, potential, beauty and warmth, but even in this loveliest of seasons, downsides are inevitable. With every shift — seasonal or otherwise — come adjustments. With every attraction, there are distractions.
As I watch the cedar waxwings devour this year's crop of mulberries, I can't help but admire their beauty. As I exercise caution when walking by wasp nests, I find myself appreciating their house-building skills. While shooing away pesky mosquitoes, I marvel at their ability to zone in so effectively on potential meals. As I avoid kicking over stinkhorn mushrooms and spiky weeds, I find myself awed by nature's diversity.
I could get upset over the unpleasant parts of life, but what would be the point? By accepting the good with the bad, I am accepting life to the fullest. It's not always pleasant but it is definitely real, and I'm really glad to be along for the ride.