ESSAY: The Coming of Green

Below is an essay about the annual march of spring as the whites, browns and grays are overtaken by green.

by Daniel  A.  Neary Jr.green1

Between the whites of the melting  snows and  the whites of blooming apple blossoms, the green comes to Vermont. Usually in early May, it rolls northward and upward saturating  the  fields,bushes  and trees with verdure. Naturalist Way Teale  says spring green creeps northward at the average rate of about 15 miles a day and climbs mountains of about a hundred feet a day.

It is an annual event  of  unsurpassed visual beauty in Vermont (a state which many believe owes half of its name to the color green). In the springtime, the color green takes on many shades. At first, the shoots of grass penetrate the mat ted browns in the fields. In the woods, wild plants and weeds push  through the wrinkled leaves  pressed  together by the weight of the thick snow. Ferns yo-yo upward. Patches of skunk cabbage unwind slowly, showing large, corrugated leaves, even before the buds appear on the  trees.

green2For a short period in  the early spring, the green changes from a yellow, lighter shade to a bluer,  darker color. Face into the sunlight in the morning or evening, and the spots of the of the leaves from the poplar trees will shimmer and glow in a delicate effulgence. At about the same time  the strands of leaves o the willows will pick up; color before the leaves appear on  other trees. Patches of poplars and willows will  stand out as swatches of light green on an otherwise leafless hillside, long before it is drenched in foliage. Buds of the maples, first  tinted red and yellow of grass will coruscate. Look across a  green meadow in the afternoon, and it will make you envy the grass-eating animals ‘of this world…Luxuriant, yellow-green blades of grass are everywhere.

Grey planes of mountainsides are now a hodge-podge of colors of  the lighter  greens o f the meadows, next to the still darker blue green of the strands of  spruce. It is all quite a contrast from the white, dark green and grey of winter and the flat browns  of  early spring.

In some years, when there is a sunny spell coincident with the arrival of the green, a phenomenon of incredible beauty takes place. It  is impossible to photograph because the total effect occurs over several days. Only the elements comprising this natural, impressionistic sight can be pictured. The rest takes a little imagination and  the ability to sustain visual experience over a couple of days.

With the sun at your back, face a  ridge of mountains.  Imagine the mountains are rocks on the seacoast. Look at them: cold and grey, like rocks on the  shore.  When the wind blows, think of it as water  rushing, filling  the valley; the wind becomes the water turning the branches, making them sparkle in the light.  This sense of filling and  crashing of water onto rocks of water onto the rocks also occurs when the green arrives.  Foliage pours northward and upward over the craggy, worn forms…A wave of g green takes not seconds but days to roll, crest, splash and tumble.green3

The mountain ridge fills  with  the green of spring like a wave of differing shades, patterns, swirls and  froth of  dotted green — first  the buds bursting in the valleys on the southern side,, and then, the   gentler greens of the leaf sprigs  in the foothills — buds at the  higher elevation — now in aggregate  looking   almost  white–in any  event- lighter  than   the greens below. Think of the wave, the sea water rolling forward, taking on colors of the  rocks and sky.  At the  top is the foam and then the spray. Droplets form a mist against the grey rocks. Finally, a halo of mist and spray  sparkles in the light.

That’s the way green looks on the sides of the mountains in Vermont in  the spring — the movement, the   rolling — a time lapse sequence of spring — ocean style. Spring greens go higher up the mountains each day.  Green climbs the mountain — all that it takes to get the name Vermont.