Rosy-pink flowers open to creamy white centers..jpg

Spring is on its way, as evidenced by this Japanese magnolia's rosy pink and white flowers.

I came home for lunch the other day and found Larry, who helps us with yard chores, busy with his power weeder in the pouring rain. That seemed like a bad idea, so I tucked myself beneath an umbrella and went out to send him home.

But he wanted to keep on, pointing to the heavy slicker and waterproof hood that were keeping him dry. “I’m trying to stay busy,” he said. Larry’s mother had died a few days earlier, and he was putting his mind on other things to soothe his grief.

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So we stood together for a while as the clouds emptied above us, talking about what it’s like to lose someone so close. My mother died a dozen years ago, and I know the hole she left. The weather seemed as sad as we were while we confessed how hard it is to miss someone who’s not coming back.

Even so, I felt oddly cheered while torrents ran down the driveway and into the storm drain. Our small part of the world was wet and gray, but here and there, you could see hints of something brighter. As if lifting sheets from the chairs of a home long asleep, Larry had mulched the brown blanket of leaves across the lawn, revealing the first new grass of the season underneath.

There would be no more leaf drop from our big sycamore, which shed its last dead foliage in January. Its huge canopy was now bare, as if the tree had cleared its head to dream of warmer days. On some of the lower branches, little green shoots had emerged — tiny fingers reading the air like Braille, sensing the news of winter’s decline.

There are other signs that the sodden year is waking up. In the stiff March breeze, the pink blooms of our Japanese magnolia sway as grandly as church bells, a summons to faith in the fertility of a planet that’s seemed especially tired of late. Even our aged mayhaw has improbably survived another Yuletide. Its crooked limbs stand veiled in fresh white blossoms, like an old bride still swept by the promise of enchantment.

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We hung thick new curtains in our bedroom this winter, hoping to keep the room snug and dark through the season’s long nights. But I’ve noticed the sun prying with greater strength at the windows these past few mornings, light leaking through the drapery with a quiet insistence that feels a lot like hope.

Hope, I suppose, is spring’s greatest gift, a windfall of expectancy we seem to need more than ever right now. It’s been a mild winter, though too often a bleak one, touched by floods, scandals, health scares, a sense of things not right.

On some days, the charcoal sky blushes with strokes of pastel, a signal that the calendar has turned a page. What I’m glancing, I guess, is the color of Easter.

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