Have you noticed the sun coming back in the mornings? I’ve been feeling it for a month or so now – the gradual lengthening of days as winter quietly transitions into spring. Slowly, slowly, the sun becomes warmer and the air becomes lighter. The robins come back, and all the birds start to sing. It is now at least mostly light out both when I leave the house and when I get home, which is a sure sign of ever-increasing hours of daylight.

It’s usually about this time that I wake up one morning and realize that it has absolutely become spring again. Forget the snow on the ground, forget the frost coming tonight. Yes, it’s cold and wet and rainy, and it sure feels like winter. We might even get a blizzard still. But winter’s hold is loosening, and soon we’ll be sliding effortlessly into spring.

And it is here, right now, under the snow, quietly pushing its way up through the half-frozen earth, gearing up to burst forth in a blaze of glory as soon as the moment is right.

Today, it is official.

It is clearly spring when the crocuses begin to break ground. I wasn’t expecting them for several weeks yet, but when we went out to the car this morning, there they were. (They weren’t there yesterday.)

Crocuses are my favorite of the spring flowers. They’re usually first, and they are unstoppable. I cherish that tough, resilient optimism that cracks open the frosty ground, forcing its way skyward. I’m especially excited this year, because we planted something like 300 bulbs last fall. (I felt a little like a demented squirrel out there digging all those tiny holes in the ground, but I think it will pay off.) I’ve wanted to plant spring bulbs in several of the houses we’ve lived in over the years, but we never moved in at the right time to do it. So this year, I jumped at the opportunity. Our front yard should be spectacular if they all make it through the winter. There are crocuses and snowdrops and some little bell-shaped flowers in this patch, and then there are 75 daffodils by the front fence, a bunch of irises and some special tulips, and then a few other small things tucked in here and there. And probably something else I forgot (that’s the squirrel part). I can’t wait to see what emerges as the snow recedes!