Spring not only gets the Maple tree sap flowing, the warming sunlight adds a bounce to our step as if spring is actually flowing through our veins. There is something promising in what is to come, with the creeks slowly opening and water starts to drip and then flow. The ice on the lakes slowly recedes as it gets warmer, and we have more sunlight and energy. The drastic differences between the Minnesota seasons are amazing and spring is a particularly special time.
The weather beacons us outside after a long winter. The sound of water flowing on the farm was irresistible for us as kids. Even though the creeks were freezing cold we would take off our shoes and walk into the water until our feet were starting to become numb. We sat on the bank warming them in the sun and marveling at the bird sounds, the re-emerging bugs and frogs and the warm winds blowing in the dry grasses. My brothers, Dave and Jim and I were always exploring the farm and hanging out by the creek and in the woods. It never failed, we always had big ideas to build a raft and try to sail it along the creek in the spring as the water was high and moving fast with the melting snow and spring rains.
We built a raft a number of years in a row. We used scrap wood lying around the farm, and we had work shops full of tools and nails and whatever we needed. Our parents were very tolerant of such shenanigans as it probably kept us busy and maybe we learned some building skills. We would sometimes draw up a crude plan and then search for the materials. It usually took a few days or more to build anything worth while. We had all read Tom Sawyer and so the
conversations we had while building were as much fun as the actual launching. Our anticipation of how it would work and how far we could get always exceeded the capabilities of what we had built, but we were never dissuaded by past failures.
Each year we built as if this was our year to be very successful. As each year passed we grew older and wiser in building our raft. I wish we would have had cell phones back then, because then we would have pictures of those beauties. We just have our memories, which are probably somewhat distorted. When I imagine the rafts, they look like a small version of the rafts from the Tom Sawyer movies.
We had three logs or half logs on the bottom and on the top, short boards nailed into a platform that we could sit on, and some long sticks to try to push and steer it from the bottom or the creek banks. Sometimes our neighbors or cousins helped. We always watched out for each other so no one was hurt and the only injuries I ever remember is minor things like scrapes or the occasional black fingernail from pounding our own fingers.
We did not have a very deep creek even when it was swollen for spring, but it was enough to float our little raft about halfway through our pasture if we did not load it too full. Usually only one or two of us could go on at a time and it got stuck often in the weeds or shallow areas, but we always considered the project a success if we could get it to float with one of us on it for even a short stretch down the creek. It was usually my brother Jim who volunteered to ride the raft.
He still is an adventurous guy, and also was the youngest at the time, so probably the lightest for riding the raft. Nevertheless he was always game to give the untested raft a try. I still remember dragging our heavy creation to the creek and the elation we felt as we actually got it floating with Jim aboard, riding proudly like one of the Spanish explorers we had read about. It was a spring ritual for a number of years. I suspect that there may still be remnants of some of our creations in the area where the creek turned narrow and shallow and we were all done navigating the creek for the year.
I think the ritual was more about being outside and feeling the sunshine and the cool waters than any real need to navigate the creek. We also slopped around in big boots in the pastures as we let our beef cattle out of their winter pens. Most of the mamas had calves by this time and the beautiful deep red colored calves with white faces were as happy as we were to be let free in the green, fresh spring grasses. They would follow their mamas and would literally kick up their heals when they first felt the grass on their hooves and smelled the freshness of spring.
Spring is still an exciting time for me. It seems as if winter makes our blood thick and slow, but as soon as that spring thaw starts I have an overwhelming urge to dig in my garden and to step in the puddles. I cannot wait to plant my flowers and plan a little vegetable garden. I look at garden websites and survey my dry dead gardens and imagine what they will be with some tender loving care. I love digging in the dirt in the spring, and even cleaning the leaves. There is still a lot of farm girl in me. I even own a small tractor despite the fact that I am not farming. I watch the lake edge at our home and marvel as we slowly get running water past our shoreline and eventually full ice out. I don’t have to build a raft to enjoy the water as we now have boats and kayaks but the memories of building rafts on the farm with my brothers came flooding back this weekend when standing on the edge of our lake in the warm sunshine, watching the ice melt before our eyes.
The energy of spring flows in my veins as I open the windows wide and the fresh spring air fills the house with the clean smell of a new season. The buds start forming on the trees, and the birds even their pleasure with the end of winter. We walk the dog in the sunshine and feel warm and energized. Spring is a time of fresh renewal and infinite possibilities, of beautiful flowers being surveyed by the butterflies, cooking with the fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden and floating along the lake watching the herons and the eagles emerging in the ever increasing sun leading to summer. Enjoy and appreciate the spring for its fresh possibilities!