Other years, it has been March 9 or later that I've seen much sign of life with our pussy willow. Yesterday while I was walking in the neighbor's lane, I noticed that catkins towards the top of the plant were swollen and a few had already begun to open. This is spring's surest, yet subtle, sign.
For the past three days we've reached into the 60's each afternoon. Yesterday we had a spring breeze blowing strongly from the south. It is the pussy willow that notices this first and reports it with a soft, white flag of truce to winter's final days..
In the late day sun, the branches were alive with orange and the scene became warmer still. I walked to the garage, pulled out our stepladder so that I could photograph some of the higher branches. While low down on the plant the catkins are snug and tight, those at the top are emerging. The ruddy shell which encloses the cottony center is splitting and the catkin slide out ready-formed.
There, below, is Sam''s lane, still cold but softening and muddy with winter's melt. Where a couple of weeks ago, branches broke under the weight of ice, they are now warming in the sunset's glow.
It will not last. This is no more than an early tease. Soon the snow will fly again and the wind will whip the flakes about. It is too early to talk of spring. And yet the pussy willow looks ahead, telling us that winter is nearing its end, that all will be well and warm ... soon.