Listening for Spring

I hear the pecking before I see the hint of red. Peering through my office window, while I write, a woodpecker bobs it's head back and forth. If I listen closely I can hear other birds chirping along to the hum of the pecking. From my vantage point I can also see shoots of grass (well, to be honest, green starflower weeds) breaking through the earth. The skies are blue and the sun is shining.

Spring is beginning to transform the landscape in front of me.

But not inside my house, yet.

It started with coughing. Nothing unusual given the time of year and all the preschool germs Charlotte encounters each week. But then it wouldn’t go away and turned to more of a barking sound. To be safe we took her to the doctor: strep. And that was our first sign that spring wasn’t quite yet here.

Next it was me. Unable to do more than move from the bed to the couch, I spent two days watching the kids make a mess of our living room while I stayed on the couch. I longingly looked outside to the sun, yet couldn’t feel it myself.

And finally, it was Isaac with the coughing, runny nose, and fever. It was his turn for the doctor: RSV. When, O when, would it be spring?

Earlier in the week we got outside for a walk. It’s that in between time of year where winter hasn’t fully let go of it’s grip but spring continues to push forward into the world. That time of year where we walk with hats on our heads to keep ears warm but light jackets over our bodies. We still feel the chill of winter even as we reach our faces to the sun. Continually leaning to the light.

“Hi birds!” Charlotte chirps happily as she points to the birds. “Bird right there! Up top over there! I hear birds!”

The birds sing us a song of welcome - or perhaps we’re the ones singing the songs of welcome with our hellos and greetings.

We continue to hear those birds from inside our home as we remain on the couch or bed. I gaze longingly outside as the sun shines and say prayers for health. In between checking temperatures and listening to coughs, I hear from other friends. If it’s not RSV it’s the flu. If it’s not coughing and runny noses, it’s tiredness and loss of appetite. One text after another: is it spring yet?

I spend almost a full week in the house with the occasional walk to breathe in fresh air and feel the sun on my face. We give the medicine. We keep the fluids coming. We ensure lots of rest. And slowly the coughing subsides and the color comes back to their faces. Slowly, one late night cuddle at a time, we find ourselves on the other side of sickness.

All of us can go outside now and we take the day to hike at a Rock Bridge State Park. Both kids cheer in delight.

“Water! Birds! Path!”

We sit at a picnic table next to the woods. With our back to the trees we feast on peanut butter, boiled eggs, and applesauce. The birds welcome us with their song. The rippling of water hums through the woods. There’s not a cloud in the sky.

I hear it’s pecking again. A woodpecker. This time I don’t see it, but I know it’s there. I know it’s sound will follow us on our hike and keep us company. I know the singing of birds and the rush of water and the laughter of other hikers will follow us too.

Just as I know that winter always leads to spring.