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Hummel column: Spring follows a long nap

Ben Bruin was 75 years old, stood five feet, eight inches tall, weighed 275 pounds, had been a grumpy widower for 10 years and lived alone in a cabin on the edge of the woods.

Most who knew him considered him a growly bear of a man. In December, he saw the doctor and complained of not being able to sleep. The doctor gave him a prescription and told him "take these — they should knock you out."

Old Ben took his pills and went to bed on Dec. 15 and slept and slept and slept. He woke up with the sun shining through his window to the sound of a woodpecker hammering on a dead basswood tree just outside the cabin. When he had gone to bed, the remainder of bark on that tree was so soggy that the woodpecker hammering had been muffled.

The old man got out of bed, stretched and was puzzled about something that didn't seem right. He went to his door and opened it and saw dirty, soggy snow banks that had obviously been much higher. He heard birds chirping and saw two geese honking overhead. When he reached down to scratch his belly, most of it wasn't there. As his mental fog cleared, he realized it was spring — he had slept through the winter, had hibernated and lived off about 75 pounds of that fat belly. Was that possible?

A cool breeze hit Ben in the face and he couldn't wait to get outside. He put on his boots, his wood cutting pants, his mackinaw and rushed out. The smell and sounds of spring gave him a gush of energy and optimism he hadn't felt for decades. And he hadn't been that slim for years. He felt young again — and healthy, almost like he'd been resurrected from the dead — just like the trees, roots, and animals that had been dead in December and were springing into life all around him.

What a feeling. He couldn't remember if spring had always felt so great before. It probably had, but he just couldn't remember. When the wind blew in his face, he felt he was shedding dullness. "I'm getting one more time," he thought.

As he was walking around, he found that he was whistling. He couldn't remember the last time he had whistled. He eventually noticed he was walking in slush. Yes, the remaining signs of winter were still all around him. Icicles on the edges of the roof were melting and the dripping water reminded him of a transfusion of life.

He walked up to his maple trees and sensed the energy surging beneath their bark. He realized he hadn't collected their sap and made maple syrup for years. He remembered with a chuckle how fun that was every spring and decided on the spot he would do it again this year, starting immediately if he hadn't already slept through the sap running time.

He stopped and watched robins skittering around, playing and chirping. Soon, he hoped, he would see the first cardinal of the season. The scrappy blue jays, of course, had spent the winter right here in the neighborhood but he loved the flashes of blue as they chased some of the smaller birds away from the seeds poking out of the snow.

"Is spring like this every year and I've been missing the party?" he asked himself. "Is this just because the earth is starting to tilt closer to the sun?" He could feel the rhythm as he hadn't felt it for a long time.

He walked over to a snowbank next to a grassy area. And there, next to the snow were dozens of brave little blue crocus flowers already growing — the first flowers of the season. The revived old man was on his knees smelling the crocuses. Suddenly, an impulse he hadn't felt for years grabbed him. "I think I'm going to pick a bowl of these little beauties and go make a call on the widow Murphy."