Exploring The Last Green Valley: Hope springs eternal this time of year

Exploring The Last Green Valley: Hope springs eternal this time of year

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;

Man never is, but always to be blessed:

The soul, uneasy and confined from home,

Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

— Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Man”

In this short section from Alexander Pope’s poem, he reminds us that better things will come and to find optimism in a future full of possibilities.

Hope certainly does spring eternal this time of year, especially the early spring weeks between mid-April and mid-May that lift the spirit in witness of new life.

I find enjoyment in each of our four seasons. Any life-long New Englander understands that there is no choice but to accept our region’s capricious seasonal weather patterns. You really might as well get used to it and enjoy the subzero frigid days and as well as the hot and steamy ones.

But for me, these few short weeks of early spring — as new life rises from the ground, is patiently incubated in egg-filled nests, or pokes dark noses out from warm dens — engender hopefulness and a renewed appreciation for our natural world.

Most mornings find me rising early and heading to our barn to feed and water our three horses. (I use the word “our” here loosely since these equine companions actually belong to my wife.)

I do enjoy the morning chores and my routine is typically to accomplish the tasks in short order and head back inside for coffee before leaving for the office.

I dread the dark and cold dawns of winter and the challenges of frozen water buckets, frosted finger tips and an icy horse paddock.

Now that spring is here, I look forward to each morning, and when the chores are complete, I’ll linger outside to breathe in the emerging spring season.

These are the weeks when slumber is broken at first light by singing birds proclaiming nesting territories and wooing mates.

The dawn chorus at our house begins each day with the robins and, soon after, the cardinals, followed by red-breasted woodpeckers and tufted titmice and chickadees.

Their simultaneous songs become a cacophony of sound as our private avian opera announces the season of new life.

Back in mid-April I completed spring tilling of my vegetable garden, and now my peas are breaking ground.

The rich soil awaits more seeds and plants during the weeks ahead when warmer temperatures will stimulate the life hidden inside each stem and kernel.

The black patch of tilled earth stands out in contrast to the surrounding green grass but soon it will be a blend of green shades.

Most mornings I stop to examine the dark loam and consider this year’s location for planting potatoes, beans, tomatoes and squash.

Despite my spring optimism, many hours of labor lie ahead before the garden reveals its tasty summer treasures.

The first tree in our yard to bloom is our solitary peach tree. Pink flowers are happily adorning the branches, embracing the potential each bloom conceals.

Our peach tree, along with most in our region, failed to produce fruit last year due to unseasonable changes in winter temperatures.

It is a relief to see the peach blossoms this year. Already I am drooling at the thought of sweet fruit and fresh cobblers.

The crab apple and Baldwin apple trees are now blooming as well in glorious shades of red and white.

The elder statesmen of our property are the dozens of sugar maple trees that stand in silent watch over the land. Several are more than one hundred years old and were mere seedlings when the house was built at the turn of the 20th century.

The maples are now blooming with small, greenish-yellow flowers. The stamens are long and hang in clusters resembling a tassel. I usually park my truck underneath one of our large sugar maples, but as the leaves begin to form, the withered tassels drop and coat the top of my vehicle, reminding me to park somewhere else in early May.

These resident giants dominate our property. A century of successive blooms is evident in the number of sugar maples of all sizes on our land. The towering branches at full leaf provide cool shade during summer heat, and the brilliant foliage affirms the autumnal celebration with crimson, yellow, orange and all shades in between.

Some of the older trees have holes perfect for lining with dry leaves for a warm winter nests, home to a burgeoning squirrel population.

On a recent morning, I stopped to watch three youngsters chase each other up and down the trunk and branches. Our land’s most copious mammalian species is alive and well. I watch them suspiciously and am bracing myself for future battles of the birdfeeder.

Yes, this is the time of year when hope springs eternal. If you take time to experience the first hours of morning light, you, too, can witness the annual cycle of life.

One needs only to pause, to be still, to watch purposefully, and to listen intently. Soon the promise nature brings will reveal itself to you during our glorious spring season.

We live in a beautiful region called The Last Green Valley. I hope you’ll join me and many others as we care for it, enjoy it, and pass it on.

Bill Reid is chief ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for 35 years. He can be reached at bill@tlgv.org.

The Norwich Bulletin is granted first serial rights and associated electronic rights to publish the preceding article. The Last Green Valley, Inc. retains all other rights to the work.