Ahab leans upon the rail, looks out upon the calm Pacific and then speaks to Starbuck, describing the “mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky. On such a day-very much such a sweetness as this” he first began whaling and his exile from “the sympathy [that arises] from the green country … by the green land” of his home in Nantucket.* His portrayal is a memory and especially a lament for he has spent most of 40 years away from his green home. In this mild, mild Pennsylvania spring, my account is more fortunate; I have been landbound and able to watch this year’s dark winter die out and pass on to a green land and sun.
All the birds have returned. I cannot remember hearing so many Towhees calling from the brush wherever I walk. A pair of hooded warblers followed us along the path of old railroad tracks. Wood Thrush sing from each set of deeper woods. Tree Swallows swing in great arcs over the field close to the house. Catbirds and wrens and goldfinch, as yellow as old New York cabs, flock around the feeding area under the cherry and maples and perch atop the garden posts. Two pair of orioles, like orange lanterns suspended in the high branches, have come again to nest in our big trees. This is wealth.
In the pastures and along trails lavender and white Spring Beauties and Violets have given way to Buttercups and Bloodroot and a grassland of acres of yellow flowers that look like a wild Coreopsis. The trees began with the budded hush of the lightest lime and then fell to a green-yellow and then to a bright, almost reflective green and finally to the fully leaved encloaking May-green, a shade undimmed by heat and summer dust.
The heavy snow and rain of February and March uncovered small prizes in the corn field next door, a groundhog’s skull and a horseshoe encrusted with handmade nails, a vestige of all the many planting seasons this place has seen.
This is Pennsylvania’s best time of the year. Nothing feels quite so good as this mild sun on bare skin, and the sight and ache of this soft, soft blue sky broken up everywhere by a land that has come back from silence and now fills the dogs and me with its colors – Luna has become entranced; she runs very fast in widening circles through every meadow slough throwing up spray and sometimes leaping like a fox. I cannot stop smiling when I watch her.
* Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Chapter 132: The Symphony