A spring memory

This short piece is in response to a Monday writing prompt on Lori Carlson’s blog

Do join in. It’s a good exercise and everybody has a spring memory they could write about.

Painting by Ernst Bernhardi


The snow had melted weeks before around the house and my parents had begun to turn over the soil ready for planting. The rose bushes were pruned, stakes put in for all the climbing things that were planned, like sweet peas and morning glories, and the geraniums had been taken out of the shed where they over-wintered and set out on the sunniest wall. Every morning was heralded by a wild, unfettered chorus of birdsong.

I had no interest in gardening at that age, but I loved to watch the tiny shoots appear that would run rampant into a riot of stalks and flowers in a few short weeks. I planted a few seeds of my own and watered them assiduously, but much preferred poking about under the hedges, looking for nests, eggs, the holes that meant a tiny rodent had taken up residence. I watched the different birds, their frantic nest-building activities, listened to their songs.

The days grew milder; I ventured further into the wilderness at the bottom of the garden that became woodland and a stream-filled valley. Buds were swelling, leaves uncurling, bright, tender green. New pods were bursting; catkins decorated the willows with their silky pollen-coloured flowers, slender spears of garlic and irises thrust through the muddy earth. Old dry seedheads blew away in the brisk spring winds to make way for new growth, all signs that life was returning.

The snow had gone, even from the deepest shade of the hazel copse, from the dampest shadows by the little brook, when I found the hedgehog. It was lying on its back, ribs spiking to the sky, opened like a tin can. Something hungry had found it in the dark depths of winter, and the spiny remains had lain hidden beneath the snow until now. No blood stained the earth around it, no gore and signs of mortal struggle. The little animal was long dead, but still I felt a sorrow that rose in my throat and made my eyes sting. Even in the joyous bustle of spring, death was never far away.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

26 thoughts on “A spring memory”

  1. So beautiful and bittersweet, Jane! Reminds me of the time I ‘saved’ a mouse from death in the jaws of a cat. It dropped the mouse, and I expected the little thing to get up and scamper away. It didnt, just lay on its side kicking feebly. I ran crying to my mum, who said I had to put it out of its mysery, and thats what happens when you interfere with nature. Eventually I dragged myself back to perform the horrible dead, hardly able to see through the tears, but it and the cat were gone.

    1. I know! The number of times I have ‘rescued’ little birds form a cat’s jaws only to give them a lingering death. I think they reach a stage where they accept death and start to shut down all systems. If you rescue them they don’t appear to notice and die anyway.

      1. Thats true. Although as a child I witnessed my mum nurse many small animals back to health and release them back to the wild. Hurt animals just seemed to turn up on the doorstep. Quite remarkeable, when I think back on it.

      2. Some people have a gift for healing, that’s for sure. My great-grandma had a houseful of birds and animals with matchstick splints and bandages. She swore by Jameson’s and used to give it to injured animals using an eye dropper, but I have a feeling they survived the whiskey rather than were cured by it!

      1. Jane, this is a bit of a cheek, but I’ve suddenly remembered that you live in Bordeaux, and I’m hoping to teach a dayschool in creative writing in Montcaret, in August. Is there anywhere near you that you could stick a poster up for me? (I’d have emailed you, but I couldn’t see it on your site).

  2. I once freed a caged pet rabbit. My thought was to set it free so it could experience life the way a rabbit should, the way rabbits live in the wild. It surely wasn’t happy living out it’s life in a prison. I opened the little trap door and it bounced merrily across the yard stopping here and there and then into the woods. I patted myself on the back and went to bed that night proud that I had done a good deed.
    I found it next day chewed up, beaten, half eaten lying dead in a corner of the garage. Ooops!

  3. Lovely entry from my prompt, Jane… I found many dead things after Spring thaws as a child. I probably had more mini-funerals than any kid I knew. And we had so many shrines around the house. Thankfully Dad indulged me by making every little funeral special ๐Ÿ™‚ Lovely descriptions here too… I am off to read your second memory.

    1. You can probably divide children into those who scream ‘disgusting!’ when they find a dead bird, and those who bring it home to give it a decent burial ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. true! I guess death has always fascinated me. I always brought things home for burial. Never once thought disgusting.

      2. Me too. Children in general are fascinated by death. Why they accept religious teachings so easily maybe. I’m sure I thought that burying birds and saying a prayer over them guarantted them life in the next world.

      3. Yeah… I probably felt the same way. I am more of a reincarnationist now though, but I probably felt that way back then too.

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