Spring Has Sprung

Last week was the Vernal Equinox. In the Northern Hemisphere, the date marks the change from the Winter season to the Spring season. While the air temperatures are warmer, the average amount of wind has increased, as has the unsettled quality of the air. Some days the air feels warm; other days, the wind cuts like a knife and chills to the bone.

My pup drags me around a nearby pond most days, and I’ve noticed the variety of birds is increasing as the temperatures rise. A month ago, I only heard Mourning Doves and passed the wood ducks and Canada geese while walking the dog. This week, I’ve seen a few fat red-breasted robins, a bald eagle pair, a Great Blue Heron, red-winged blackbirds, and various sparrows and wrens. Had I been in a different area of the pond, I would have snapped a picture of one of the eagles snatching a fish from the water. By the time I got my phone out of my pocket, the bird was out of sight. I managed to capture at least one blurry shot of an eagle in flight after reaching a clear area.

(C) 2022, JJ Shaun
Bald eagle flying over a local pond.

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to capture this shot.

(C) 2022, JJ Shaun
Blue heron.

I know they aren’t the best pictures, but my only camera is on my phone.

As with my obsessions, I have been writing a little less this week. Part of the reason is the amount of time we’ve been dealing with stuff to do with our new home, but that’s a tale for Sunday.

I wrote this piece a few weeks ago in response to The Writer’s Cramp contest at writing.com. The prompts were to use the title False Spring, and daffodils were already sneaking up from the soil somewhere in the story. The phrase was required to be in bold text. The tale didn’t win that day, but it was still fun to write.

False Spring

Lyryk Starsong watched the early-morning sky through the thin trees as she and her four-legged companion, Biscuit, trudged along the deer path. A rime of frost covered the trail. She didn’t trust the weather, despite seeing signs of false spring. Having sheltered with a weather-witch two days hence, Lyryk knew to be wary of changes. The music flowing through her mind accompanied her along the track.

By midday, the frost had long since turned to dew and evaporated. The afternoon promised warmth as Lyryk scanned the small meadow and noticed daffodils were already sneaking up from the soil. Tiny buds formed at the ends of branches, and bits of green grass peeked through the thin layer of snow. She picked the few plants she knew were medicinal, like the daffodils and earliest dandelions.

What was it the witch had said? “‘Ware the warm before the storm.”

Taking a few minutes to rest and chew on rabbit jerky and dried fish, Lyryk looked around the lea and spotted a small berry bush hidden behind the scrub of a fallen tree. Checking the branches, she managed to pick a small sack of desiccated berries the hibernating critters missed. She also found a handful of dried herbs and a couple of early root vegetables. Dinner tonight would be more satisfying than the smoked rabbit and fish that had kept them going the last day or so.

The pair continued north and west toward the pass the weather-witch had directed her. Along the way, she met a shepherd who confirmed the route and gave her a detailed description of the low stone obelisk that marked the crossroads. He even drew the symbol for Blackford in the dirt to know which paths to follow to reach the river town.

As the day waned, Lyryk looked for a suitable place to rest for the night so she could replenish their supply of dried coney. She discovered bits of fur that showed the rabbit trails. Setting up a handful of snares around what looked like a warren, she went back to the fallen log behind which she had chosen to camp.

The half-elf gathered enough fallen wood to fashion a sturdy lean-to and set about making a fire. She and the dog found a small creek not far from the entrance where she had set her traps. Filling her water skin and cooking pot, Lyryk went back to her site and placed the pot on the fire. While waiting for the water to boil, she washed the roots and prepared the rest of the ingredients she’d found.

The young bard knew the benefit of daffodil tea. She recalled once when she had caught lung fever, and her mother had to take her to the herbalist of whatever town they were in. Her mum complained bitterly about the cost (a whole two coppers, if Lyryk recalled). The girl remembered the taste of daffodil, honey, and whiskey and how it soothed her throat and the damnable cough. She had finally been able to breathe and sleep. Better to have some medicines with her than none at all.

When the shelter was complete and the fire warming the small interior space, Lyryk followed Biscuit to where they had set her snags. She had guessed right. The half-elf netted eight hares that she took to the stream to skin and clean. She and the dog took a circuitous route back to their shelter, leaving the skins and entrails to the scavengers.

“What do you think, buddy?” she looked into the dog’s honey-colored eyes. “Should we leave it with rabbits?”

Biscuit looked up at her, head tilting from side to side. The tune in her head picked up its tempo. “Right then,” she nodded at him and headed back to the camp, a brace of hares bouncing on her back as she tossed the bundle over her shoulder.

The late-afternoon sun lit the clearing she walked through, highlighting more early flowers fooled by the promise of the false warmth. She picked what she could find, including a field covered with the earliest of daffodils, crocuses, snow flowers, and dandelions. Finding enough leaves in which to wrap her treasures was another matter. She resorted to tearing her handkerchief into enough pieces to keep the plants separate until she had time to dry them properly.

Lyryk cut one rabbit into the stew, gave another to Biscuit, and sliced the rest into strips to cook over the low fire. The dog kept watch for the night as she slept.

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