When the meadowlarks sing

Apr 3, 2014 By Betty Starks Case

Isn't spring a mystery?

Of course, it's all in how you view it. But after all these years, it's still an annual wonder to me.

Life begins anew where it seems impossible. Beauty awakens us in sight, sound and fragrance. New hope abounds.

Barely into April, our Casper nursery friend declares our lawns will be green in two weeks.

Ours never really turned brown this past winter. Not because the weather was warm, but one storm after another heaped on snow to help the grass retain a promising mix of green and brown. That's rare in Wyoming.

I remember a winter at our Pheasant Crest Farm when autumn snow covered blooming flowers and didn't thaw until spring. Protected from colder temperatures by the snow itself, the perky little blue-and-white blossoms survived and moved right on into spring.

Sounds like a tardy April Fool's joke, doesn't it? But it happened.

The date of April 1 also brings to mind a Ranger issue some years back where our mischievous newsroom created an entire April fool issue as a joke on its readers.

When I figured out why I was reading a bunch of malarkey, I decided I'd been granted license to write my own weird column. Mine was a nonsensical conversation performed by one of my brothers and me to divert our thoughts from our father's passing. It was a method he'd unconsciously taught us himself as a way to deal with life events when we couldn't find answers.

Sometimes, there's no better sword than laughter - and acting like an April fool.

Moving further into our spring thing, we're feeling gifted by the presence of our youngest brother and sister-in-law, who recently moved to Riverton.

They often take hikes around the area and pop into our house for a visit and sometimes cookies and milk. And sometimes - a job.

Recently, we discovered that a storm, or possibly a low-leaping deer, had broken out some of the lattice-top of our backyard fence. Brother, coming to borrow our pickup truck, saw my mate working on the fix-up and lost his original plan to the winds. The fence job lasted all that afternoon and the next forenoon.

Perhaps I should explain that this fence shares an active history, its top rail serving as a dance floor for courting robins, doves, and other bird pairs, just the right escape height for deer caught lunching in our garden. Winter snow packs its corners as if the fence couldn't stand alone.

When Ned began building the fence about 20 years ago, a neighbor we hadn't met stopped his morning stroll to ask if he could help. He could and did -- until it was finished.

Some years later, a severe storm took out a section of the lattice. One of my brothers came over and helped with the repair. Now, newly arrived to Riverton and just getting acquainted with this active fence, my youngest brother learned how the fence can draw one in.

Adding to the mysteries, I read that American author, educator, and clergyman Henry van Dyke had noted "The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month."

What a downer. But one's spirits can change quickly this time of year, and mine were elevated when a longtime friend shared a seasonal memory of her father last Sunday.

"Daddy always reminded," she said, 'It's spring when you hear the meadowlark sing.'"

Her father was a lifetime friend of my mate and me, and the thought of him is a springtime lift in itself. In memory, I see a ready grin below dancing brows that tell you a joke may be in the background, but the truths of rural beauty would always live close to his heart.

As for meadowlarks, they do live up to their name and make their nests in meadows.

In our area however, each time the meadowlark's space is dedicated to another human home, the larks move further out to the country. We miss them.

This morning, having read that American author Susan Bissonette once observed "An optimist is the human personification of spring," I ran out to see if I could end this column with a more buoyant attitude.

What a lovely sight. On the south side of our house, a trail of tiny violas light the bare ground with purple-and-yellow blossoms. The bleeding heart pokes up through its 2013 remains. I hope it doesn't get too eager to show us its tender chains of pink hearts. Frost still haunts our mornings.

But these days are only preliminaries. Let's stay alert to the wonder.

Let's walk the wild grassy places, the mysterious paths where we can be reminded, "It's spring when you hear the meadowlark sing!"

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