Between ice and crocus, spring lunges across the Keweenaw Peninsula. No sooner did we hack down the snow bank did the warming sun reveal bursts of snowdrops, scilla, and grape hyacinth. Purples of all hues, creamy whites, and buttery yellows paint the greening grass as tree limbs stretch skyward with fat buds.
Never have I witnessed a spring so eager as not to wait for the passing of snow. I recall the slow gray days and brown transitions elsewhere. Here, I feel transported to a Thomas Kincade scene gone wild throughout my neighborhood.
To exemplify how close spring grazes winter, on Monday we drove the familiar path to Iron Mountain for a VA appointment. As we curved around the Keweenaw Bay in a ying-yang of ice and open water, I watched an ice fisherman walk out to his hole while another man prepared to launch a boat. No changing of the guard, just a strange co-existence as one season fades and the other blazes to life.
Tulip leaves with seductive curves reach out of the grass. How soon before they add to the canvas? I’ve never been as excited to spot flowers as I do birds, but it’s hard to resist the call of the colors. Somehow, it excites me more about the birds. In a mood to drive, to soak in the warmth of days, to spot flowers and winged fowl, the Hub and I meander home the long way from Iron Mountain and end up in the port city of Marquette.
We drive down to the pier where the iron ore dock stands like an abandoned skyscraper above a crackle of broken harbor ice. Lake Superior stretches out winter white and we drive by with windows rolled down. I feel like I’ve run down a rabbit hole where winter is warm, and spring bulbs dot the snow. We lose count of hawk sightings on the drive back to Hancock.
About ten miles from home, the Sturgeon River fills its banks with snowmelt. The week before we couldn’t access the marsh bird tower at this site because snow closed the road. This week, the road is clear, the river full, and the marsh is half ice, half winter grass. Eagerly, I take the wooden steps up to the three-story-tall observation deck of the Sturgeon River bird tower.
Between me and the far reaches of the Keweenaw Peninsula, I can see flat marsh, the river, the Portage Canal, and the ridge that hides Lake Superior. White seagulls circle over the canal when I scope the far horizon in my binoculars. A double-breasted cormorant flies low past the bird tower with slow flaps, dipping its head downward to scan the river.
Mallard drakes leap out of a patch of grass. Two veer left, and I keep binoculars on the one flying toward a frozen ditch in the shadow of a bank. It hovers over the bank, and beneath its webbed feet, I see something black begin to move. It glides out onto the ice, and I recognize the form of a river otter.
Slink, slink, glide…slink, slink, glide…
I squeal and watch Otter on Ice close-up in my binoculars. The Hub can see the movement and lets me look, knowing how excited I am. When the otter disappears into an open hole of water, I finally hand him the binoculars. A river otter sighting is like seeing Elvis at the mall. Everybody knows Elvis lives, but no one ever really sees him.
Later, when walking with Cranky (my neighbor who sells crank sewing machines), we talk about the otter and remark at all the crocuses and spring bulbs quilting the neighborhood. A robin twitters overhead as if to point out the buds. I say I want to be an otter — to glide on my belly across ice seems such a delight.
That’s when the bumblebee buzzes past, and we follow his trail to the cup of a purple crocus. Like a dog rolling in the grass, the bee tumbles about the flower, and I decide I want to be a bee, too. I feel childlike with all senses open — the smells of the earth, the tweets of birds, the feel of the setting sun, the blaze of colors. I want to glide and roll in it all.
It reminds me of coloring and the reproof to color within the lines.
But what if the lines are a part of the coloring? Edges define one place to the next. I’m fascinated by edges and where we go past them. Lines separate and organize. Lines are to be crossed. All lined up feels formal and arranged. Perhaps winter and all its lines have me yearning for the scattering of color outside them. It’s not the end of the line. It’s only the beginning.
May 3, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use a line in your story. You can think of the variation of the word meaning, or you can think of visual references. Go where the prompt leads.
Respond by May 15, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.
If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.
Lined Up to Go (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills
Wagons lined up to cross Rock Creek. Early season argonauts set land sails toward Colorado Territory – Pikes Peak or bust. Wagons hauling wares to mining-camps joined throngs of optimistic miners. Sarah counted several women, rare as mules among oxen. The trek suited the bull-headed. Seated next to Cobb on their Conestoga, they waited. He wanted to reckon crossings. The muddy slopes caused slippage and broken axels. Two wagons tipped, one man drowned, and two-hundred and fifty-four wagons crossed.
“That settles it,” Cobb said after Sarah lined up the numbers. “We’re buying Rock Creek Station and building a toll bridge.”