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Change of Seasons

The Tiny Green Shoots of Welcome

Suzie Lechtenberg

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Peeking out at spring
(Corrie Befort Patnaude)
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This month, we've been airing your stories about spring. For much of the country, spring is old news -- azaleas have already bloomed in Virginia, and the sweet-singing warblers are nesting in Georgia. But in Minnesota, we're still waiting for green grass.

That's what Corrie Befort Patnaude learned as a child when her family moved here -- in January. They'd never lived that far north, and weren't used to the stark winters. Patnaude remembers that year, when springtime started to arrive... and magic unfolded in her yard.

When I was 9 and my sister was 4, we moved with our family to a little town up in northern Minnesota called Grand Rapids. My dad was in the forestry service in the Department of Natural Resources and so we'd moved a lot through my childhood. To northern states -- northern Idaho, northern California. We moved to Minnesota in January, when it is absolutely the coldest. That was the very, very first time that we had ever been anyplace that cold or that far north.

I've never experienced cold like that before. It was just like, there was nothing, nothing happening in the landscape. It seemed so dead, and we were just inside -- my sister and I are home-schooled -- so we were in the house, in this big, drafty, huge home with picture windows, and it was just so cold because we hadn't figured out how to heat it very well yet. So we were just bundled up and we'd be in the corner doing school work next to the floor heaters, just trying to stay warm, kinda camping out, burrowed into the corner, trying to be happy about where we'd moved to, but feeling really uncertain and kind of nervous about having moved there.

My mom had sort of determined that we'd had the last real frost. There was still snow in places, but it was pretty much starting to melt off and we were able to start to figure out that some of the little mounds in our yard, which had just looked like mounds of snow, were actually maybe flower beds.

When we started pulling all these dead leaves off the flower beds, underneath, were these amazingly green shoots and spikes that were so strong, that when you ran your hand over the top of them, they would prick and flick your hands -- just so robust. We could just tell that this garden was just so full of flowers, just cheek by jowl. That day was so special because we just had no sense of belonging at that house. And yet somehow, the act of discovery made us feel like we belonged, like we were welcomed somehow by something inviting us to belong there, too.

Now that I'm a Navy wife, and I'm frequently placed in new locations and new situations. And seemingly, our moves always land us someplace at around February or January -- that's just been the way that it's worked out. I try to keep in mind that spring that I had with my family when we were uncovering the flower beds, and remind myself that actually, maybe, maybe January and February are the best times to move... Because they really hold the most mystery and also the most immediate payback for that mystery, where you get there and maybe you're a little bit disappointed. But you know that so, so soon, things are going to start coming out and revealing themselves to you -- and you're going to be welcomed by those things.

More stories from our Change of Seasons series


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