Rights of Spring
OUTSIDE MY WINDOW, a small bird is anxiously hopping around over moist soil gathering twigs for a nest. Winter overstayed its welcome this year and it is finally spring, a time of rebirth, a sunny reminder of the immutable nature of life. All across this half of the globe birds have returned, sprouts reach out for the sun and bungalow people venture from cozy inglenooks into the garden. This is the time of year when life’s parameters stretch beyond cozy wooden walls to embrace neighborhood, community and the earth itself.
Not long ago I experienced the rebirth of a neighborhood on familiar turf. The tale of a homecoming to my own childhood bungalow, a personal time capsule, has been told. Not recounted were the changes to the blue-collar neighborhood outside its doors. Time has not stood still on 53rd Street. English is no longer the language of adults there, and most of the shingle and clapboard bungalows have been stuccoed to conform to cultural preferences. At first it felt as though my childhood home had been magically transported to another country. All of the familiar neighborhood characters were gone, replaced by recent immigrants with an apparent fondness for decorative wrought iron. Exciting new aromas wafted from kitchens.
It didn’t take long for the new neighborhood to set me straight about changes. One by one, neighbors appeared at the front door to ask about my Mom, or to make sure it was still okay for children to play in the backyard, one of few in the neighborhood that were not filled with apartments when that was the popular thing to do. The man who tends the yard and garden came to seek approval of his improvements, and the guy who parks his car in the driveway offered to move it during my visit. The dialogue, in English, was usually between me and one of the children, with smiling adults nodding accordance in the background.
At dawn the next morning, the neighborhood gardener was already tending his roses, and soon I recognized the familiar ritual of dads being waved off to work and children hugged before grouping up for a walk to school. The neighborhood characters had changed, but the signs of life were the same.
The little bird outside is now gathering fluff for finishing touches to its nest. It wintered somewhere far from here, and probably saw changes to this familiar place upon returning. All change brings a degree of uncertainty and even concern, but nature provides for adaptation. New chicks will soon arrive, and they will feel quite at home in their surroundings. Within a year they will build nests for their own families.
For living creatures—and for neighborhoods—spring is proof of nature’s fondness for a way of life that is in harmony with it.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
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