Staring out over the glassy lake, the early morning was a symphony of spring, and like the trill of the redwing blackbirds coming from down the beach in the brush surrounding the high flowing creek, it was a far cry from the day before. Then, as my wife and I took the line for the Fargo Half Marathon, temperatures near freezing and a chilly continued northwest wind from the exit of yet another swirling low in a series of season killers made things feel more like the end of summer than its unofficial start looming on the calendar. Under clouds and in the cool we ran along the banks of the swollen Red River, yet another reminder of what the recent series of weekend-crushing weather had left behind in the last month and a half. By the time the race ended, I had donned my running jacket again as the gusts rose to meet us on the way to the finish line.
Our return to the cabin following the race was highlighted by treetops swaying, frothy whitecaps rolling into the shore — or what used to be the beach due to the highest waters I’ve ever seen — and a quick addition of my waders to sidle out into the crests and pull up the segments of docking that had blown loose from the frame in the preceding days’ gusts. The water was ice cold, and its clarity gave up its depths and suggested that any post-spawn movements from the south shore walleyes would be limited and it may likely be a while before the spottail shiners they keyed on would run up that nearby creek. The baitfish likely would have little issue as the water poured directly into the lake, as no sandbar impeded its flow. I went to sleep in a sweatshirt and sweatpants on the couch, drifting off with the sound of the evening waves.
The next morning all was calm, and I wandered out onto the deck, wiping the fog from the lenses of my glasses that built up from the first sip of coffee. Without the breeze, even the first light of day felt warm and as the sun peeked over the just-budding treeline behind the cabin, and the world around me came alive with sound. Starlings chattered and communicated in their secret language as robins continued their vernal songs. The rhythmic pattern of a nearby cardinal kept time and pace against the cacophony up and down the shore, and the high-pitched roll of the redwings sounded from the expanded stretches of marshiness that had grown in around the creek. It was as if all the treetops came alive at once, and even the two-note call of a chickadee could be heard in the mix of every winged creature making its presence known.
In what seemed like a moment of high optimism, the birds challenged the season which has been stuck for weeks, egging it on to make its appearance already. They begged for more sun to open the buds and turn out the leaves that would shield their nests. They called for long, warm days to trigger hatches of insects to feed themselves and their young. They sung with all their might to turn the tide of what has been into what should be, and poured optimism into the air with every note. Even the cawing of a crow seemed to lay down the gauntlet, catching the attention of the season in my mind.
I couldn’t help but be filled with the optimism after so many false starts and setbacks. I had seen snow just three days before as I walked the dogs, and a sleety mess capped off a cold and gusty storm that highlighted yet another week which frustrated fishing trips and made the idea of simply going around the block a soakingly bad one. The combination of the sun’s rays, the birds’ tunes, and the calm and glassy water before me lifted my spirits and I began to whistle each cadence back into the world around me as I grabbed an old spinning rod and prepared for the day’s first cast into the clear water. By doing so and listening to the return calls that always came up and down the shoreline, I hoped that together between the birds and I, after writing about it, hoping for it, and trying to force it in any way possible, we could perhaps just sing our way to spring … in our outdoors.