Margaret, March 20, 2004

While we were gone, Spring snuck in. Snuck in with her warm breezes, blue skies, and cheery demeanor. It wasn’t as if we had been trying to keep her away; quite the contrary, we were glad of her arrival. But nevertheless she had thought it necessary to sneak in while we were gone.

In think the mountains told her. They had been disappearing a lot lately, using screens of fog, of snow, of clouds, to remove themselves from our skyline. Probably off cavorting with Spring. Then they’d pop back in – for a day, maybe two – peek in on us and see we were still here. And then disappear again, reporting to Spring that we hadn’t left quite yet.

When we returned, Spring was here, along with her friends the mountains. She had melted all but the small shady patches of snow, displaying the dark green fields that stretched off to the deep blue bodies of the mountains.

I went out for a run, my first Spring run, even though I had a cold. I ran the familiar twenty minute loop out through the farm fields behind my little village. The village itself had come out of its winter slumber. Two local residents helped a neighbor replace the windward side of his barn, placing and nailing wooden stiles. A brother and sister emerged from the front gate of their yard, helmets on heads, wheels attached to feet. A black-and-white cat jumped onto a fence post and watched me as I passed. Two friends, girls, maybe twelve, walked close together down the road, sharing smiles and secrets while enjoying their ice-creams-in-a-cup. A lone tawny family cow stood outside and blinked in the sun as if seeing the world for the first time.

The path through the fields was a popular one, and Spring’s arrival made it all the more so. Grüß Gott! I’d say and hear throughout my run. Servus! the men working on their car greeted me. Hallo! said the girl walking with her parents, the broad smile of sun and Spring splashed across her face. The old woman was training her dog to sit and stay, but she took the moment to glance up at me and smile as I passed. Grüß Gott.

And there were many dogs. Big ones, small ones, different breeds, some running alongside bicycles. There’s a strict leash law in Germany, but the dogs here are so well trained, so well behaved, that I more often see dogs off-leash. The owners walk behind, eagle-eyed, ready to recall them if they err even slightly. Dogs pass dogs with curious glances, sometimes a smell, but never a growl or bark. This day the dogs were far more interested in other things; they trotted through the fields with their tails up and noses down. A new smell here, ooh what’s this smell over here? I suppose if I hadn’t had a cold, I would have recognized the smells of Spring too, not in dog detail, but the overall flavor: the rich dark smell of damp dirt, the sweet tangy smell of rejuvenated grass, the unmistakable whiff of farmers fertilizing their fields – the smell of life.

I jogged down the narrow half-paved lane until it petered out into a dirt path and turned left, becoming just tractor tracks along one field edge. A hawk appeared overhead, wings outstretched, gliding along invisible currents. Three school children sat on a bench, their bicycles piled off to one side. Hallo! Then I was running my favorite part, through the short wooded section that provided welcome shade in the summer heat. The ground was muddy, thick and squishy under my feet. I might have been able to smell the scent of the firs – if I could smell.

And then I was through the trees, back on dry dirt, then paved path. A grandmother sat talking with her grandson as he whittled at a found stick. A couple walked along, intimately close, pushing a baby carriage, not needing to talk. A smile of greeting, then by. Two tiny clouds looked lost in the expanse of blue sky over head. They glanced around briefly, then rushed on to catch up with friends over some other land. I was running south now, back toward my village, and the mountains rose up behind it. I slowed for a moment to take in a scene: the tall heads of amber grains mixed with shrubs just budding pink and white in front of me. Just beyond, the beginning of dark green fields which stretched on to a cluster of small village houses and barns. Behind them more fields leading to the blue-purple mountains, still wearing caps of winter snow. And above, the blue blue sky Spring had brought with her, now completely cloudless.

Hallo, Spring. Grüß Gott.