Spring, spring, beautiful spring.

When all the birds are on the wing.

Isn’t that the silliest thing you’ve ever heard?

I thought the wing was on the bird!

That little ditty appealed to my early grade school sensibilities when I learned it. But each year, unbidden, it rises to my consciousness when the days start getting longer. Signs are everywhere: green tips are pushing from the earth, cats are shedding, my nails are growing faster. But nothing says spring more clearly to me than the trill of the red-winged blackbird.

Although it happens annually, it’s always a surprise when that first “chip, chip” registers in my dormant winter brain. I keep walking past the cattails until I finally am aware, stop myself and say, “They’re here, it’s spring!” while their red epaulettes flash in the sun.

Many years ago, I had a cat, Tee, who camped with me. Tailless, she would arch her back when petted to the point that we would tell her to hump and nicknamed her the humper-doodle. On one trip, we were on the edge of a marsh and the blackbirds kept up a steady stream of their calling. “Listen, Tee, they are calling you! Hump-hump-er-doodle.”

Now, each spring, when I hear that raucous call of the blackbird, I am transported to those days and that cat and it makes me smile. I’m sure, for others, it’s a different cue. What is it that says springs loud and clear to you?

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