I had a poetry teacher in college, Hugh Ogden, who taught us the importance of paying attention – lessons in observation more memorable than any science class. He asked us what the first color of spring is in New England – the answer wasn’t green, but the red of the first buds.
What are the first signs of spring where you live?
I just got back from a work trip to Denver where it was 70 and sunny. I landed in Oregon to 50 and rainy, every dripping shade of green a contrast to Colorado’s warm tans and golds out the airplane window.
On my run this morning I passed lush clumps of daffodils and red flowering currant. Cherry blossom petals plastered to the wet sidewalk. Thick pelts of moss covering the tree branches. Clouds low, puddles deep.
This is spring.
Spring means it’s time to put air in the boat trailer tires. It’s playing outside after dinner and dirt under our nails. It’s snails in the garden and jumbles of boots in the mudroom. It’s knowing which dips in the alley collect the most water and riding bikes back and forth, seeing who can make the biggest splash.
Whether it’s drizzle or downpour, the rain swells the rivers, calling the salmon back upstream. We just got our six-year-old his first salmon license. They say when the dogwoods bloom, it’s time to start fishing for salmon on the Willamette.
You can’t really think about seasons and weather anymore without acknowledging climate change. Because seasons aren’t as dependable as they used to be. Old rhythms and cues are shifting. Climate change has us questioning what’s normal.
Maybe spring is coming earlier where you live. Maybe your weather has gotten more extreme. Maybe there’s more water, maybe there’s less.
A new report by the National Academies of Sciences looks at the connections between weather and climate change. As The New York Times explains,
“Like the surgeon general’s 1964 report connecting smoking to lung cancer, the report from the National Academies connects global warming to the increased risk and severity of certain classes of extreme weather, including some heat waves, floods and drought. This is an important development. Climate change can no longer be viewed as a distant threat that may disrupt the lives of our grandchildren, but one that may be singled out as a factor, possibly a critical factor, in the storm that flooded your house last week. The science of extreme weather attribution brings climate change to our doorsteps.”
For me, the answers lead back to rivers because that’s where I can always find beauty, no matter what. It’s where I have fun and tromp around with my boys. Rivers hold so many lessons of restoration and resilience. I’ve seen dams come down, rivers like the Kennebec, Sandy, Elwha and White Salmon surging back to life before my eyes. The magic of free-flowing water.
Healthy rivers can help us roll with the inevitable punches of climate change. A protected river with forests and wetlands means a more secure supply of clean drinking water in times of drought. A river with room to move around in its undeveloped floodplain means better flood protection for communities. Water is life, and when we protect rivers we help protect the lives of plants and animals and people now and into the future.
Rivers teach us to be at home with change. Because of rivers, I’m hopeful.
This month is the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death. He died at home, in spring. I remember those last days in technicolor – red and pink and orange tulips, the dogwood tree out his bedroom window in full glory. Bright sun, blue sky.
We opened the balcony door so he could feel the spring air.
Ryan Bingham’s song Snow Falls in June is stuck in my head. There’s a line that goes, “If you ever feel a change in your weather / Take shelter with me here.”
Life is full of shifting weather patterns – meteorological, emotional and otherwise. Some changes are predictable, some surprise, some are really hard. Love is a shelter.
A new spring is here and I’m finding so much to fall in love with every day. Rain and rivers, and who my little boys are in this moment, and the work I get to do. This spring, I’m trying to pay attention and notice all of it, inside and out, so grateful to be part of all of this simple stunning beauty.
Klean Voice Contributor Amy Kober is the Senior Director of Communications at American Rivers, as well as the mother of two little boys. She lives in Portland, Oregon.