A feast for the senses

Fragrant magnolia blossoms erupting by the thousands. Forsythia bushes brimming with golden blooms.

Fragrant magnolia blossoms erupting by the thousands. Forsythia bushes brimming with golden blooms.

Rabbits nibbling on the lawn at dusk. Singing birds. Lawn mowers and the scent of fresh-cut grass.

You know it’s spring when it infiltrates your senses.

The season doesn’t stand a chance of sneaking up on anyone because it has a sound, smell, feel, look and taste all its own. Judging by the reaction of people encountered around the Capital Region recently, everyone has taken notice.

“This time of year, especially as we head toward May, it is impossible not to be inspired by nature’s abundant beauty,” said Maria Peterson of Albany, who admits once the days grow longer and the sun’s rays strengthen, she takes to the trees.

“Even at my age, I have been known to climb a few limbs, which, of course, makes me feel like a kid again. But even more amazing is what I find when I’m in a tree. I’ll see little insects carrying food to God knows where, and I can examine buds before they give way to leaves. I lean back and just feel like I’m cradled in the arms of Mother Nature. For me, it is a reawakening. Suddenly, I feel so small compared to everything else that is coming to life, and yet I feel so privileged to be a part of it all, which makes me feel big at the same time. Paradoxically amazing, if I do say so myself.”

Fresh, clean, inviting

For as long as Donna Hotaling can remember, she has spent every winter dreaming about the year’s first mild days.

“When I was a child, I loved to run down to the brook near my house and listen to the water rushing by. I would sit by the rocks and breathe in the air. The sun would hit my face,” said the Albany native. “I don’t live by a brook anymore, but I still relish the air this time of year. It’s magical, so fresh and clean and inviting. It gives me a rush of anticipation about what is to come, and you can tell that everything is on the cusp of bursting with color and beauty.”

Lance Girard feels a twinge of spring fever every time he goes for a walk or drive around his home simply to admire the “ripening” willows.

“Could nature have created anything more beautiful? I mean [these trees] are massive, and once they unleash their amazing tresses — the way they drape, sway and dance, without sounding too out there, they actually speak,” said Girard, who lived in Texas outside Houston before relocating to Watervliet more than a decade ago.

“If you sit by one long enough, you get to know its language. It is as close to communing with nature as one can achieve.”

Liz Jensen-Mira of Troy said nothing pleases her more than opening up every window in her house and letting fresh air flood inside.

“When I can open my windows, I really feel like the final nail has been placed in winter’s coffin. I enjoy planting myself by an open window and just closing my eyes. I hear planes, mowers, skateboards and hammers. I hear balls bouncing in the streets and children’s voices calling to one another. It is like everyone is coming out of a cocoon. It makes me feel safe — as if life’s simple pleasures have not been lost,” she said. “But the absolute very best sound for me is when I hear the neighborhood ice cream truck with it’s signature song rolling down the street.”

Peepers at night

Martha Thorpe of Schenectady is all about the creatures of the night.

“What screams spring more than a chorus of spring peepers?” she asked. “It is like being serenaded. I could listen to it forever.”

Thorpe noted she finds it intriguing she has never seen the elusive frogs responsible for the distinctive “peeps” that have captivated her since childhood.

She isn’t alone. Peepers are pretty hard to find, and it doesn’t help that they are generally only about an inch long and can “throw” their voices.

Songs of spring

While they are a sure sign or warmer weather, so, too, is the return of several migratory birds to their fair-weather homes, filling the sky, woods and gardens with color, motion and sound.

“I love listening to them, and I love watching them. For me, the robin — though such a basic bird — is my favorite of all time. And, of course, few birds signal spring more than these fellows,” said Craig Murphy of Queensbury.

Birds are a big deal right about now, and birdwatchers are always delighted to spot that first robin of spring (although some robins do stay here in the winter), that first turkey vulture and that first song sparrow.

Some great places to observe these guys swooping into town locally are the Vischer Ferry Historic and Nature Preserve on Riverview and Van Vranken roads in Clifton Park, the Ann Lee pond at the intersection of Route 155 and Albany Shaker Road in Colonie near the airport and Collins Pond off Schonowee Avenue in Collins Park in Scotia.

Aside from birds, springtime for Murphy also means enjoying watching people drive around with their windows down and speakers thumping.

“I know it’s annoying to some, but it is a sure sign of spring. You don’t hear blaring music in the winter. The other thing that comes to mind are barbecues. I love that smell. It means long, lazy days and that is just what we need right about now.”

David Reynolds of Schenectady is always happy to see birds and bees, flowers and trees. He loves to hear woodpeckers at work in the distance and the sight of crocuses as they pop open.

But, despite the loveliness of the season, this Albany resident can’t overlook the myriad eyesores left over from the long winter.

Beats snowblowing

There’s the dirty film left on window panes and bunches of dried, matted leaves that have amassed in the flower beds and stuck in and around all the bushes, he said. So, for Reynolds, spring is about lots and lots of cleaning. “It’s the smell of Windex and driveway sealer and paint. It’s the whirring of mowers and weed wackers,” he said. “But, I’ll take it,” he said with a laugh. “It sure beats snowblowing.”

Beth Whitaker of Menands describes herself as a “sucker for everything spring.”

“After a long winter like the one we’ve had with so much ice and snow, nothing beats a soft rain on a warm afternoon. It releases such a distinct scent into the air. The ground is wet, earthworms crawl out of their hiding spots and little puddles are everywhere. I love watching [the puddles] evaporate after the storm ends and sunshine re-emerges,” she said. “And nothing, absolutely nothing, beats soft rumbles of thunder. It’s the best sound, and it makes me feel like all is well with the world.”

Antoinette Lerner said “fireworks” go off in her brain when she spies a couple of cabbage butterflies frolicking about.

Often the first butterfly to be spotted once the weather turns mild, and the last to linger into the fall is the cabbage butterfly, also known as the “cabbage white.” Those winged wonders assure Americans from coast to coast of a summerlong presence of butterflies.

“I usually see them in pairs, and the way they fly together, it’s almost as if they are holding hands — completely in love with one another. It makes me want to fall in love,” said the Clifton Park resident. “I think this time of year, love really is in the air.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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