Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 23, 2014

Warm days, crocus blooms signal arrival of spring fever epidemic

— — From sprout to full-fledged plant, his growth has been marked with eager anticipation. Each morning, the short walk from front door to car door has included a lingering pause — a stop mid-step to look right and note the arrival of spring by the progress of its first blooming flower.

On this day the purple crocus stands proud, opening its petals to soak up the final rays of afternoon sunshine. His late arrival this spring has probably saved him from an untimely death. A few weeks ago his royal hued petals would have been dotted with white flakes from an early March snow.

Perhaps it is best to sometimes procrastinate.

Behind the crocus, a robin searches through the dull brown grass for a plump earthworm. In a mere month, or less, the lawn will be bright green and eagerly awaiting its first trim of the season. Now, the blades appear tired and worn after a long Appalachian winter.

Obliviously to the bird, three giant dogs whip back and forth across the lawn. In true March Madness fashion, they play tug-of-war with a deflated basketball. Stricken with a disease known as spring fever, they continually race and pull to see who will be master of the game. The winner will have a piece of well-worn leather to drag around before dusk arrives; the losers will be content to steal said piece of leather once it is left unattended.

Beyond the fence line the rustle of forest litter announces the arrival of an uninvited woodland critter. Wild turkey? Deer? Raccoon? Stray feline? Species is irrelevant. The basketball is momentarily forgotten in the excitement of barking and braying. The fence, and the forest beyond, belongs to the dogs. All trespassers will face the wrath of two excited Labs and an ugly mastiff.

The would-be intruder is suitable chastised, and the game continues. The push of a large paw into soft soil brings to notice the gurgling of a new natural spring. Bubbling up from the dirt, the fresh flow of water is unaware it has chosen a manicured yard from which to emerge. By mid-August — dry season — the spring will have slowed to a trickle. Until then, it will nurture the grass and pool in nice puddles for splashing.

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Spring’s red letter day was Thursday, but its accompanying illness heeds no calendar when making an appearance. Arriving in late February, March or April, the fever tends to infect whenever the sun pokes its head above weary clouds.

Warming the ground and spirits everywhere, most humans can’t bear to stay contained inside as welcoming rays toast hammocks, front stoops and picnic tables.

It’s a season made for personal days and afternoons off. Whether those days are spent on a golf course or porch swing makes no difference. What’s important is that they are spent outdoors.

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As gardens are tilled and barbecues planned, the season of hibernation officially ends.

In the forest new life springs forth on tiny paws, and a slight hint of green begins to emerge from the canopy of hardwood trees.

When Memorial Day arrives, the tulip tree poplars will be ablaze in orange-yellow blooms that, to the discerning eye, rival the showy blossoms of native rhododendron. Until then, brown bark and the sporadic mush-colored lichen are all that break up early spring’s gloomy decor.

It’s an unfortunate trick of Mother Nature that warm temperatures lure us outside to be greeted by brown grass and barren trees. But after three months of white weather dull shades of taupe have an uncanny appeal.

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In a quiet, rural backyard, the red fox catches a lingering scent. Following the fresh trail he does not realize he’s wondered into a dog zone. Excited Yellow Labs and Ugly Mastiff call him out. Quickly he turns his bushy tail and sprints into a thick undergrowth of brush and briers.

Having made their point the dogs turn back to their game of basketball.

The robin, two worms down and more to go, continues his hunt for food.

And the crocus, unmindful of his fashionably late arrival, continues to stand proud and unblemished on the semi-sunny knoll.

Regardless of any snow flurries to come, spring has arrived in all its splendor.

Worries of the economy can be set aside for a spell as we marvel at the new day that has awakened in the two Virginias. It is time to be thankful,  joyous and fully appreciative of God’s wondrous gift.

Masquerading as bills and chores and to-do lists, life gives us challenges each day of our existence. In winter, summer and fall we not only greet the challenges, we meet them head-on — tackling them with gusto and determination.

But spring is different. It’s a season to marvel. A season to relish. A season to periodically loaf. A time to occasionally meander alone on woodland trail with the rays of a spring sun warming the face.

Forget the worries. Embrace the season. And enjoy the final weeks of a March Madness epidemic.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.

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