Where spring throws off her shirt

I’ve called the Pacific Northwest home for nearly a decade, and yet its version of springtime still shocks me.

I come from Minnesota, where spring follows sepia-toned winters, gray skies and brown landscapes that give way to white skies and white landscapes. Now and then these scenes are punctuated by periods of pure yellow sunshine that emanate from heavens of brilliant blue, turning ice-encrusted trees and snowdrifts into piles of diamonds.

Western Washington winters are just a chilly variation on the rest of the year, really: muted greens and gray skies periodically broken up by a few hours or days of white. The first couple of years we lived here I had a hard time remembering what month it was. Were we headed into winter or away from it?

Until springtime arrived. Daffodils. Tulips. Hyacinths. Cherry blossoms, plum and apple. Dogwood, rhododendron and azaleas. Scotch broom. Irises. Wisteria. Goldenchain. The yellows, pinks, reds, fuschias, purples and oranges not only dot the landscapes here but paint broad swaths of it, so explosively as to be garish.

A rather subtle rhododendron

So unlike the way Minnesota eases into spring, like a swimmer testing a lake with her toes. White snowbanks slowly erode into gray piles of icy granules that melt leaving mounds of grit lining every street. Meanwhile hesitant hyacinth and crocus peek out from beneath wet leaves before tulips and crabapples and eventually lilac and iris wade into the cool air.

Washington simply throws off her shirt and dives in.


Our yard is full of rhododendrons and azaleas, vestiges of the previous owners, whom we have to thank for our displays of pink, orange and fuschia. But today I noticed something about the plants we have brought to the yard. They are all blooming purple, a quiet color by comparison, maybe an echo of the subtler springtimes of my child- and young adulthood.

sage (no blooms yet but purple leaves)


3 thoughts on “Where spring throws off her shirt

  1. I enjoyed your description of spring in Washington. The photos of the purple flowers sink into my imagination. This year, we haven’t had a defined time when spring may appear…no buds on trees yet and fisherfolk I the top third of the state will not be launching boats for awhile. I expect that one day it will be HOT and we will dash for the AC’s, while throwing off sweatshirts and dashing to Menard’s for something to plant. But purple flowers? Just a dream.

  2. The color you offer is gorgeous, intemperate compared to our modest glimpses of spring in Minnesota. The forsythia and green grass offer hope.
    Thank you for the gorgeous photos of your yard. I know how much you enjoy it. love, Mom

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