All of a sudden its there.
It is not because the calendar says it is, for me its a happy sensation coming from inside. Helpless to resist this overwhelmingly cheerful feeling, people put spring in their step, dance and smile, wave, laugh.
Cows fresh from the stall leap up in the air like children let loose from the classroom and just-born lambs jump for joy this way, that, and sideways, to abruptly stop to wonder why. Kids, let loose from school jump like deer, run like hares, yell and scream of pure joy, why?
Because its spring, and its here and now.
Spring makes me think about April the first, long time ago, when we were let loose the last of school before the summer-holiday of three eternities (three weeks) vacation from the elementary school. We ran through the streets, hitting garbage cans, and making great noise, dancing one street in and another out, singing, more like screaming at the top of our lungs -
'It is today the very last day
that I'm here my nose to pick
I say the teacher now goodbye
for his stupid arithmetic.'
My friends and I impatiently waited until the the fifth of April, the end of the legal time to hunt for bird eggs of lapwing, godwit, duck and others. (kieviet, skries)
How wonderful for a ten year old to roam over the meadows of Fryslân with a few friends on a sunny spring day, each a ten foot long jumping-pole over the shoulder with which to jump over ditches they must cross, while hunting for bird eggs. After the fifth of April bird egg hunting was forbidden to afford the birds a chance of brooding their eggs, but that was also the best time to find eggs, and it was extra exiting to know that the police would be on the lookout for illegal egg-hunters like us.
So here we were, Pete, Andy and I in green grass meadows, up to the horizon and - close to the nests of a kieviet, that beautiful bird crying out its name 'kee-wit, kee-wit,' louder and louder as she nose-dived, like a war plane upon its target, to chase us away.
We are able to see for miles but have eyes only for shallow nest with colorful kieviet eggs.
And then we hit upon three beautiful eggs in a shallow nest. We danced around it. The joy of finding a nest with eggs, gave much the same surprise and joy as finding a few colors when panning for gold, which my brother John and I did years later in Canada.
I remember us slowly swirling the angled gold-pan filled with pay-dirt partly under water, with every whirl of the pan part of dirt leaving the pan into the river. Sloshing around brings the lightest matter to the top and is disposed of, while the heavier material stays on the bottom and the heaviest of all material in the pan is? Gold.
After slowly sloshing the pan around and around finally shows only black sand clinging to the pan and if there is any gold in the sand it will appear when the black sand is nearly sloshed off. Excitingly we careful slosh a few time more and then - a bright yellow little speck peaks through the sand and you've struck gold.
It is a sensation like finding a nest of kieviet eggs.
Since we were hunting that beautiful spring day for lap wing eggs, we were ecstatic to find a few nests. We quickly divided the eggs up and hid them under our headgear, the muts or caps, which is the best way to store them, leaving our hands free to carry the pols-sticks.
What a glorious spring day.
Inhaling the country fresh air with deep breaths made us giddy. And careless. We did not watch for the person very able to spoil our fun, the policeman, who calmly peddled his bike over the narrow road between the meadows when he noticed what he expected to see, three boys with pols-sticks cavorting in the meadows. Probably the same boys of last year, from the christian school. He did not rate them very high.
Too far away to see what they were really doing, he stepped off the bike to have a better look.
He stalled the bike against the gate and proceeded on foot toward the law breakers.
Pete is the first one to spot the man of the law.
“Start ditch jumping,” he says in a tone of don't ask any questions, we know the tone and plunge the pols-sticks in the ditch and jump over it. In the meantime Pete informs us of the police being around.
“Don't look, keep on jumping, Leffert you go first.” I stay behind as Andy and Pete keep on jumping forming a cover for me. I quickly drop my eggs on the side of the ditch, kick some rubbish over it and start jumping again, but now between my friends and and the police, who is not changing his stride, and coming closer.
Pete repeats the action, then Andy, hiding the evidence, and non too soon.
Sluiter is not far away. Pretending to see him just now, we wait till he catches up to us.
“So, boys, egg hunting?” Surprised, we look at each other, then at him, and Andy says
“O no, police Sluiter, it is forbidden to hunt for eggs now.”
“Since yesterday already,” I add.
“You are good boys,” Sluiter says, while he hits hard each one of us us on top of the head.
But this time he is fooled, the egg-yolk that he supposed would run from under the caps over our faces does not materialize, since our caps are empty.
As soon as Sluiter is out of sight we roll in the grass, hollering and doing stupid just to let go of the bottled up fun, to have fooled the police.
Our egg-hunting in the off season, never mind how wrong it was, makes me still shake with laughter. When we were young we enjoyed life and found many outlets for laughter. We were happily alive and in that frame of mind we enjoyed what we were doing even though it was not good for wildlife.
It was just as wrong as it was during the hungry thirties to smuggle coffee over the border to Germany. Every Dutchman was (sort of) convinced it was wrong to smuggle, but if smugglers outfoxed the police even the dominee pastor would smile.
Besides, my mother was told by our doctor to eat an egg a day to combat her weakness and dad bought a dozen eggs from a farmer who was a deacon in the church just like my father at the cost of 11ct an egg. I still see mother eating the first one of the dozen dad bought home.
We were five young children then in 1939, I was almost eight and Sidney was not quite two.
We were all looking at mother eating that boiled egg. She cut the top part off the egg, sprinkled a bit of salt on it, and with a tea spoon scooped a tiny bit of the egg-white up and put it in her mouth, while all the kid's eyes followed it all the way down. Mother cried
“I can't do this to the little children,” and to dad,
“Take them back again.”
I felt six foot tall to bring mother two kiewit eggs even though they were only half the size of chicken eggs. Things were different in the hungry thirties, or as we said then, the crisis years.
I think our local police man, Sluiter, knew how things were in our household, a village of four hundred souls has few secrets, after all he was our backyard neighbor.
I doubt if he was really fooled by us that sunny spring day.
What I do know, what I remember, was the exhilaration I felt in that spring of 1940, when I was nine years old. Those feelings one experiences only a few times in life.
What I did not know was that only a month later German soldiers would invaded our country.
That was the start of World War II, and nothing would be the same again.
(The time goes faster than I can type, therefore is this spring story a little late.)