We’ve been watching carefully, and have finally seen it: Spring Break. The moment when spring, slowly building from its wintry birth in February, tilts the scale toward summer.
It came Saturday afternoon, when a humpback whale, the first one we’ve seen since last November, suddenly appeared off our beach. Within hours I sighted the first flock of Bonaparte’s gulls, black head and white body, a type of gull, among the many varieties that haunt our shores, that only visits during the herring run. I’m reaching the point where I don’t seriously expect the herring until I see the Bonaparte’s gulls, when I expect them imminently.
In addition, the songbirds have arrived, somewhat belatedly. We heard no varied thrushes, known locally as the telephone bird, until this last week. After them came the ruby crowned kinglets, whose call, “see see see you you you lookatme lookatme lookatme,” has become another harbinger of herring. Now we’re seeing these songbirds and others in the cabin’s yard.
As if summoned by this forest music, the buds have begun to swell, the rhubarb to leaf, all good things we look for in spring to suddenly quicken.
Tree sap flows freely now; I’ve already tapped the birch for this year’s wine.
Sunday morning, we had three whales in our view. The closest, a half mile or closer to the beach, started breaching, leaping entirely out of the water, then crashing down with a tremendous splash. It also slapped the surface repeatedly with its long pectoral fins, cruising around on its back with the fins and its massive tail flailing above the surface.
We’ve expected the whales daily, as they always appear at this time of year, shortly before the herring run starts. In past years, the first appearances have included impressive breach displays. One year, we watched a whale breach repeatedly for more than an hour, in a huge circle ranging from our beach to the opposite shore of Lynn Canal.
Whale biologists are still unsure why whales breach. I know it’s not wise to anthropomorphize, but I prefer the theory that they do it sheerly for fun. We are always so happy to see the whales return, we’re very, very tempted to believe that they breach to celebrate their return to our region as well.
One more break came earlier this spring, when a moose broke off a twig from the cherry tree. Michelle put it in water and set it on the dining table, where its blossoms are breaking out far earlier than those on the tree outside.
Taken all together, the term spring break describes it well. The tension has built and built before the inevitable release. And, apparently it describes it well just about every year. After deciding on the title of this essay, I discovered that I already had two others, from previous years, with the same title. I guess it’s time to start adding the year to differentiate them.