In Pasadena, spring was a subtle presence: a difference of which things were blooming, a change in the quality of the light. It came in on tiptoe and was easy to miss if you didn’t pay close attention. It took me years to learn to recognize it, and I was proud when I did. It seemed a kind of secret knowledge, something newcomers to California didn’t get.
No such obliviousness can be sustained against the spring in Michigan. One minute the edges of all the streets are humped with a sulky rind of snow. The next, there’s a cannonade of bird, flower, leaf, and green, while the daylight once in such poor supply suddenly stretches improbably beyond the dinner hour, the dessert hour, even the coffee hour. Snow boots and down coats break open like chrysalises, and arms and legs emerge, waving tenderly in the sun. If a late chill sneaks back in, we are too dazed by glory to care.
Under my windows hundreds of daffodils celebrate their inedibility, heart-shaped hoofprints showing where the deer stepped among them, prospecting, finding nothing they could eat. My daffodils’ triumph is the deer’s loss, but spring is generous. By now the deer are far away, eating someone’s tulips. I’ve seen it, walking around the neighborhood. It’s how I learned to plant daffodils.