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Katy Burns

Katy Burns: The season of tiny bulbs has arrived

First, it was the light. Sometime toward end of March, the light coming through the windows changed. It was brighter, its rays reached further into the house. Where – oh, no! – they nicely caught all the little dust motes in the air that had spent the winter practically unseen. Not to mention the dust in floor corners and the tiny cobwebs that mysteriously appear over the dark, cold season.

I guess there’s a reason for spring cleaning.

Then the cats began to stir, perching on tables and dressers to look out the windows, looking at us reproachfully when we didn’t open said windows, letting them sniff the fresh air.

Outside there were breezes – frisky, playful – instead of cutting gusts of wind.

Finally the snow along the front fence melted away, and there they were: Snowdrops. Galanthus nivalis. The sweet little bell-like white flowers seem to dance on their slender stems, happy to have shed that cold, wet blanket of snow.

It’s spring!

Spring – early spring – is the season of tiny bulbs. Snowdrops. Bright blue chionodoxa, sometimes called the glory-of-spring, are starting to show up as well and will soon form ephemeral blue carpets in flower beds. Snowdrops and chionodoxa multiply like mad and pop up in all sorts of unlikely places, spread apparently by the critters that scoot around underground in the mole tunnels.

Little species crocus – purple, white and yellow – are already dots of happy color in the otherwise brown lawn. And scilla, even brighter blue than the chionodoxa, will be along soon to strut their miniature stuff.

One of the things that makes the tiny bulbs of early spring so wonderful is that they’re just that – early. If they were to appear later in the season – when the big guns of the garden like bearded iris, peonies, lilies and daylilies are reigning – the small bulbs with their small flowers would be lost. Now, though, they’re stars in the drab landscape. And a wonderful hint of what’s to come.

If we’re relishing the arrival of the snowdrops, other Granite Staters are greeting spring in their own ways, putting their snowshoes and skis away and getting out their golf clubs or their fishing gear, their tents or their hiking shoes. Or maybe the less active will simply be happy to put out the patio table or the lawn chairs, anticipating the lovely and lazy days soon to arrive.

Years ago, in another life, I lived briefly in Southern California in Venice, then a down-at-the-heels but seductive beach community. It was lovely, day after day – after day and after day, seemingly forever – of perfect weather, perfect sand and palm trees. It got, well, how can I put it? Yes. It got boring. Exceedingly boring.

I took the first chance I had to get back to northeastern Ohio, which had weather much like that in New Hampshire, except probably worse. Just Google “lake effect snow” and you’ll get the picture. And it was good to

be back where the weather was actually interesting. Plus my return led to a lot of things, including marriage to a great guy and, eventually, a move to New Hampshire, a place with four seasons – or five, if you count mud. In Bow we don’t get a lot of mud season. There is a town obsession with paving roads. But elsewhere – for example where my sister lives in the southwestern corner of the state – mud season is very much in evidence and very hard on travelers in little cars.

It can make life in those precincts challenging. But interesting. And interesting is good.

Soon mud season/early spring will be over. We’ll proceed through late spring and early summer. That’s when the garden is at its loveliest. The foliage glistens with a variety of green shades and textures, mostly un-munched yet by bugs, the flowers are glorious and weeds haven’t yet really begun.

Perfection doesn’t last, of course. By midsummer, garden weeds – pigweed, chickweed, and bindweed – will sprout and shoot skyward when they’re not strangling the more decorous, well-behaved garden residents. Crabgrass and quack grass and all the other things that plague lawns will be rampant.

In no time it will be autumn. There are few things as lovely as a New England fall. The foliage – at least most years – is glorious. The temperatures, at least again most years, are cool, crisp, refreshing.

And winter follows, with luck a good winter with a reliable amount of cold and snow for such treats as the Laconia sled dog races and the black ice pond hockey tournament in Concord.

Then, after months of snow-shoeing, skiing and snowboarding – or simply walking through the snowy fields and woods, or even looking from a window at the white wonderland – mud season is back.

Snowdrops will again appear. As will all the other tiny spring bulbs.

And the whole wondrous cycle will anew.

We could spend these days worrying about crazy Koreans with nukes, gridlock in Washington or catastrophic climate change.

Or we could just take a break from all that and enjoy the tiny bulbs and their preview of glorious days ahead.

(Monitor columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)

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