We meandered our way over to Bishop Hill last Sunday after church in search of a sandwich and a quick cup of soup at my buddy the baker's place. While still quite a bit cooler than one would hope for on a late-March day, it was sunny, bright and beautiful outside. I found myself feeling a good bit better that morning, and it was just the kind of day made for a slow drive down a country road with something good to eat at the end of it. We got to the colony and pulled in just across from the old park, then sat for a minute to prepare ourselves for the plunge into the cold, windy day.
"Did you hear that?" I asked.
"The birds," I said. “Listen.”
She paused. She listened.
"I hear them," she smiled.
There are certain signs we all look for as spring takes its gentle hold and we anticipate the slow move into early summer and the warm, wonderful days that follow. For some, it’s the sighting of the first robin, while others wait for tulips and daffodils to make their appearance. The sight of newborn calves in nearby fields is a true sign of what's coming next, as are the new bursts of tiny color along the sunwarmed beds by the foundation of my house. But for me, a first, most reliable harbinger of the sweet season will always be the same.
Peewees, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, are “any of eight species of birds of the genus Contopus named for its call, which is monotonously repeated from an open perch.”
Monotonous or not, my mother loved the sound they made as they joined into the celebratory songfest that returns to our neck of the woods each year.
“Listen, I hear a peewee,” she’d say.
“Pee-wee, pee-wee,” she’d call back in a high, clear voice that always made me imagine the girl she always seemed to be.
Sometimes, they would even seem to answer her, or, at least, that’s what she thought. And the back-and-forth cry would continue on and on into the day and the season.
I can hear them.
I can still hear her, as well.
Spring is on the wing.
It must be coming soon.
Two day later, I awoke to a fresh blanket of snow. The morning sun dazzled off the roof outside my bedroom as the winter wind rattled the windows.
That's the thing about spring in Illinois.
It comes when it wants to. And not a moment sooner.