The past winter was so trying, the snow and ice so unrelenting, that it turned anticipation of spring into something akin to expectations for heaven.
It had to be believed to be seen.
Today spring is here — just as we had faith that it would be — with all its tiny miracles.
The first signs, as usual, were the crocuses.
Somehow, from ground that was frozen solid only a few weeks ago, the flowers poked through and let their purple blossoms shine. They reintroduced color into yards made dreary by dirty snow, gray skies and bare tree limbs.
Soon we will hear spring peepers, those tiny frogs that turn the woods and marshy spots into tabernacles of amphibian song. How do they survive sub-zero temperatures without becoming little frog ice cubes?
Soon, too, the miracle of fescue will be evident.
In his new book, Only in Old Kentucky: Historic True Tales of Cultural Ingenuity, retired Eastern Kentucky University English professor Marshall Myers sings the praises of the grass that is now dominant on farms in the South.
Thanks in part to fescue, he writes, Kentucky ranks ninth in the nation in the production of beef cattle, and it ranks fourth in the number of beef cattle per square farm mile.
"Fescue has to be a major factor in these figures," Myers writes.
With the advent of spring, fescue will transform Central Kentucky into the verdant green that makes us feel at home.
Later, tulips, redbuds and other spring harbingers will burst forth.
Already, cardinals perch at the tops of trees, their red crests erect, singing their hearts out. Their songs carry the freight that our words can't express.
Contemporary psalmist and Kentuckian Wendell Berry writes of spring's renewal in this untitled 1992 "Sabbath" poem:
The winter world of loss
And grief is gone. The night
Is past. Along the whole
Length of the river, birds
Are singing in the trees.
Again hope dreams itself
Awake. The year's first lambs
Cry in the morning dark.
And, after all, we have
A garden in our minds.
We living know the worth
Of all the dead have done
Or hoped to do. We know
That hearts, against their doom,
Must plight an ancient troth.
Now come the bride and groom,
Now come the man and woman
Who must begin again
The work divine and human
By which we live on earth.
Copyright 1998 by Wendell Berry from A Timbered Choir. Reprinted by permission of Counterpoint.