It was spring, my favourite time of year. The weekly e-mails to Josie, a childhood friend living in the U.K., were full of it. She had told me she liked to hear about events in our garden. As usual I described birds dashing around trailing straw for their nests, lining them with mud mixed with water from the creek. Then there were the drifts of forget-me-nots in the wooded part at the back, and violets all over the grass, shiny cushions of periwinkle round the trees – and then of course the truly spectacular yellow drifts of – wouldn’t you know it – dandelions.
That year we had some distinguished and unusual visitors: a pair of wood ducks. First, the female sailed majestically down in front of our house. She had pretty, light-brown speckled feathers, and soon the male, in all his glorious colours, arrived. Having only seen wood ducks swimming on a river, it was difficult to understand how big they were – they seemed almost as big as Canada geese. They wandered around for a short while, even perching on the branch of a tree (another unusual ability of wood ducks) and then decided against us as hosts for their nest.
For over ten years, Josie had suffered a fatal form of bone marrow cancer – but always bounced back after the latest treatment. She enjoyed my accounts of young cottontail rabbits with fluffy red fur and almost transparent ears. They come out from the middle of a clump of trees by our house for their first look at the world. The elders have a wonderful time taking their fill of all the new good stuff that passes for grass at our place. After the first taste, before continuing with the feast, they jump for sheer joy.
That spring we saw two baby groundhogs, also with fluffy red fur, on their hind legs, front paws holding the edges of two flowerpots by our door, munching away at the leaves. It took Ronald a few comments of “Shoo” and some waving of hands before they reluctantly ambled away. All this information went into my latest news for Josie.
That morning she had replied with a question about whether we had yet seen the adult groundhog. (For years, a succession of these has lived in a hole in the roots of a maple tree opposite the kitchen window.) I was just about to answer with the news that our newest occupier of the maple tree burrow liked to wander round sniffing the spring flowers, ending up with a sunbathe on the front deck, when a new message came in. It was the monthly update on Josie for our network of childhood friends and began: I have some sad news … That afternoon (we are five hours behind the U.K.) Josie, by now in long-term care, had gone down for her afternoon nap and had not wakened when called. I like to think of Josie falling asleep with visions of our garden, its flowers and wildlife in her thoughts.
She left us in spring, that most joyful of seasons. It is still my favourite time of year. I know Josie would not want it any other way.