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The first day of spring -- a date to cheer

The New Year doesn't start on the first day of January, it starts on the first day of spring. January isn't the first of anything, it's the middle of winter. Oh yes, the days are a few minutes longer than the dark, cold day we call the winter solstice, but those few minutes don't translate into anything capable of thawing the feeling that the tunnel we're going through is frigid and the light at the end of it is distant and around the corner.

But the first day of spring, even if it's snowing big time in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is a date to cheer. Happy New Year everybody. Make some resolutions.

I talked to the most talented gardener I know just a few days ago. She's been scratching the ground with a watchful eye, waiting for more thaw. When it happens, she's going to pounce on it first with some annual begonias. She says they're easy-care, stay nice all summer and bloom in the shade. Then the perennials in pots in her garage, now starting to bud where she has placed them near the window, then the seeds she has all ready to plant. She says the pussy willows are out now and the whole process "livens her spirit." She will have a virtual Garden of Eden soon.

Even for perennials, spring is a season of rebirth and new life. The earth gets warm again and it's full of energy, rich and eager to produce. And with the least bit of coaxing and encouragement, it will bring forth.

The reawakening of nature is a dramatic process. Mother Nature is alive again and she will not be denied. Her little protuberances are budding, sprouting, shooting, leafing, popping up and bursting out all over. Some develop very gradually and others can be measured by half days. It's show off time -- and every so often some little nub appears in a conspicuous spot as if Mother is tapping you on the shoulder and whispering "this bud's for you."

Oh yes, just a few green New Year's resolutions. First, I will plant at least one more tree this year. Second, I will plant something I've never planted before. Gourds? Third, I will compost more than ever before. I can hardly wait to dig into last year's batch. But as one writer has said, "I'd rather write about a garden than plant one because that way my hands never get dirty."

In the animal kingdom, there is an equally dramatic reawakening that I can't attempt to describe because I'm not sure I understand nature's mating cycles. The birds understand, the bees understand, squirrels, rabbits and raccoons understand, even the fish understand, but I don't. I just know this is the season of people taking long walks together, holding hands, enjoying the warm sun, the fresh air and the buds.

For those of us who have the necessary credentials to qualify for a senior cup of coffee, the first day of spring is definitely New Year's Day. It means we've rounded the corner one more time and come out of the tunnel for another round trip, one more season outdoors, one more season in the sun, one more baseball season and one more lap around nature's never ending circle of life. Thank God for another New Year's Day and another year of life. Look around, breathe it in and make the most of it.