A friend sent me a photo today, the return of snow geese to Harney County, Oregon. There, the ground is still icy, and winter keeps its grip on the high desert of southeastern Oregon. Yet, as they have done for tens of thousands of years, the snow geese have returned, right on time.
In flocks of ten, twenty thousand, they swirl through the air; choreography by an unnamed master, above the still frozen marshes and the sagebrush stage of nature’s annual show.
Showers of hail blow through my yard, plunking my raincoat with pea-sized kernels of ice, fresh off a 70 mph storm roaring in from the Pacific. Still, the buds on the lilacs are swollen, and the daffodils and forsythia bravely show their colors.
I want to plant my new fig tree, just in from California. Yet, its new, tender leaves look too fragile for the remnants of this latest storm, and I tuck the tree next to the house on the porch.
“In a few days,” I tell it. “It’s supposed to warm up, and then I’ll plant you in your new home.”
I’m not sure I even believe what I’m saying. The calendar says spring comes next week, but the hills are white with late winter snow that has fallen in the last week or two. The wind cuts through my sweatshirt and raincoat, reminding me “not yet”.
Still, the robins are here now, racing around the lawn when the sun comes out, adding their song to the familiar tunes of their feathered relatives, who have endured this winter, keeping me busy filling up the bird feeder with their favorite sunflower seeds and suet cakes.
The cold wind has found my bones, and it’s time for my chair and a cup of tea.
“The snow geese are back,” I sing.
Another gust blows in, and I dance in my mud boots across the lawn, just ahead of the next deluge of ice falling from the latest black cloud; images of snow geese clouds swooping and circling in my head, me joining in their ballet over the frozen sage.
–Neal Lemery 3/13/2016