I grew up in Texas. In that place, it is possible to be surprised by spring. A river of bluebonnets might bubble up overnight. A heatwave might suddenly stake its claim on a handful of early February days.

Here, among rolling Pennsylvania hills, spring is never a surprise.

We wait so long for spring, and its coming is so slow, that no change appears without being watched from a great distance and for a long while. The view from my office window today is as brown and bleak as ever, but for days, weeks, even, I have watched the buds on the forsythia swell.

The snowdrops in the lawn do tend to pop up without warning, but no sooner have I noticed them than my two-year-old daughter has flattened the whole patch with one pink, rubber boot.

Observing a northern spring, I realize how small a great, new beginning can be. I dream of spring all winter, but the dream comes true only in fits and starts. In much waiting and a great deal of work with shovels, rakes, and pruners.

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I once dreamed of becoming a mother, but the dream was realized in sleepless nights and temper tantrums (hers and mine).

I once dreamed of a farmhouse home, and the dream came true as we cleared hornet nests from behind every window shutter and poison ivy from every fence and tree.

I once dreamed of becoming a writer, and that dream came true through the slow, daily accumulation of words.

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But dreams are like spring.

There will always be some moment of joyful recognition. Some moment when the dream drifts down around you. Light, like dandelion fluff, but real enough to see and touch.

Perhaps when the baby says I love you. When a friend says your home is so peaceful. Or, maybe, when you read the proposed back-cover copy for your book and burst into tears. Because, for the first time, the book with your name on it sounds, even to you, like a good book. Like the kind of book you would love.

It is like the moment when the magnolia opens its first pink blooms. It won’t matter then that I’ve been studying those gray buds all winter. It won’t matter that I noticed the first narrow edge of pink weeks ago.

I have lived enough springs to know that I will always greet that moment with astonishment.

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