By Al Batt

Hartland, Minn.

(Freeborn County)

When spring comes, can winter be far behind?

That’s a saying we have in Lower Minnesota.

I’d just finished telling myself that I was glad that I never talk to myself, when I heard myself mumble, “Spring has sprung, the grass is riz. I wonder where the birdies is? Some say the bird is on the wing. But that’s absurd. From what I’ve heard. The wing is on the bird.”

That catchy doggerel was written by that famous poet, Anonymous. He or she is the most prolific author of all time.

Winter likes to surprise. It has an off-putting scowl that is evidenced in blizzards. Spring doesn’t surprise. Spring doesn’t sneak up on us as National Ambush Day does. We hear, see and smell spring. It’s noisy, beautiful and odoriferous. We look for it. We keep an eye, ear and nose out. Even if we’re not conscious of it, we’re looking for signs of spring. We want to get out of winter. We notice things in the hopes of breaking winter’s lease.

I took a stroll looking for springtime signs. Juncos trilled and American tree sparrows sang in preparation of catching a flight out of here. A male cardinal sang his spring song. “What-cheer, cheer, cheer, birdy, birdy, birdy, birdy.” A black-capped chickadee whistled, “Spring’s here,” “Sweet-ie,” “Love you,” or “Fee-bee.” A white-breasted nuthatch celebrated the increasing day length by giving voice to “Wha-wha-wha.” Drumming woodpeckers provided a percussive accompaniment. Migrant robins joined robins that have spent the winter here. I watched a robin in the snow. The robin might not have been sure where it was, but it knew it had gotten here too soon. My mother maintained that a robin needed three snows on its tail before spring could truly begin. Grackles, killdeer and red-winged blackbirds suddenly appeared. The killdeer isn’t a bad harbinger of spring if you feel the need to have one. Insects became active. Chipmunks chipped as chipmunks are wont to do and the smell of skunk filled the air. Skunk is what spring smells like hereabouts.

Birds begin searching for affordable housing and soon the morning chorus of birds, the symphony of spring, will begin, but the first sign of spring could be more snow. Most years, spring interrupts winter before winter had finished its task. Winter wants to stay in the passing lane. Spring doesn’t get the memo. That’s when we get a hybrid of the two seasons. It’s something called sprinter. We get scattered flurries of both winter and spring. According to an analysis done by statistician Nate Silver, Rapid City, South Dakota, has the most unpredictable weather in the country. One day, while I basked in the variable weather of that fair city, a resident told me that if I didn’t like the weather there, I should wait five minutes and it would change. I waited 15 minutes. The weather hadn’t changed a bit.

Spring is a time to hang a new leaf on a tree. It’s when more people appreciate dandelions than any other time of the year. Snow melts and changes into potholes. The world turns an adolescent green. Spring is when a farmer beats a rain to town. Spring offers nearly every kind of weather. There is a lid for every pot. Mark Twain wrote, “In the spring I have counted 137 different kinds of weather inside of 4 and 20 hours.”

Marlon Brando’s character, Don Vito Corleone, said this in the movie, “The Godfather,” “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Spring makes us an offer we can confuse.

Spring is that time of year when snowbirds think of returning to the frozen country. These folks are brisk-averse when it comes to weather.

I fancy spring. It makes me happy. I can never get enough spring and fall.

Spring rides in like the cavalry after winter has beaten us down. We are in dire straits when our seasonal hero arrives. Even those curmudgeonly characters among us who don’t like change enjoy this change of seasons.

My Aunt Edith was a proud Iowan. Even proud Iowans die. She passed away at the age of 105 years, 8 months and 13 days. She lived that long without ever eating kale, but she still experienced many springs. I’m willing to bet the anticipation of spring was one of the things that kept her going.

Spring is a giant hand giving us a high-five of congratulations for taking everything winter had to offer and being able to welcome spring with a smile.