Spring has arrived in the northeast. In latitudes where four seasons are distinct, each with its own color palette, symphony of sounds, and visible changes in the landscape, the arrival of spring can be watched day by day if one has the patience to notice.

This is my favorite time of year as I’m a “green” person. Not green in the sense of ecological philosophy (although that, too), but green in terms of seasonal preference. Whereas some people love nothing more than snow-covered mountains and endless stretches of winter’s whiteness, I love the green season, especially when the first leaves begin to unfurl.

There is a moment when the new leaves peek out of their protective shells and a bare tinge of color appears on the barren tree limbs. Within a few days, they will unfold like butterfly wings giving treetops an almost watercolor wash of the faintest hue–closer to chartreuse than the deeper green they will become. This pale whisper of color against the spring-blue sky and dark, spindly branches lifts my spirit, especially if it’s been a grey-skied winter. “Watch!,” this tease of greenery seems to say.

It happens quickly, light a magician’s sleight of hand. Blink, and you may miss the day, the minute when suddenly every tree, bush, and flower seems to receive a cosmic signal, that says, “Now!” and bursts into full, leafy extravagance.

I’m grateful for the return of shady spots along the trail where I walk to escape the heat and the over-hanging canopies that will provide a cool rest stop when I’m kayaking on the nearby creek. When I drive into the rural areas and countryside, the hills will be lush with tall grasses swaying in the breeze along side corn fields and vineyards dressed in their own cloaks of green from seafoam to emerald.

Noticing the emergence from winter slumber to spring resurrection brings me deeply into the present moment. With focused anticipation, I watch for the first buds to open, followed by the first sprouting, and then the sudden explosion that announces spring is here. Such re-greening of the earth startles, captivates, and invigorates the soul. If we’re willing to notice.

British memoirist, Katherine May in her book Enchantment, Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age, writes that our experience of enchantment with nature accompanies deep attentiveness and emerges from noticing.

There’s an art to noticing, I’ve found, especially when we’re enveloped by nature and immerse ourselves in paying attention. Noticing demands that we shut out external distractions and give ourselves over to the manifestation of wonder. Many of us who were in the path of totality during the April eclipse watched breathlessly for the moment when the moon completely engulfed the sun, turning day into night. The rarity and spectacle of the eclipse forced us to notice with heightened acuity: the drop in temperature, the quieting of birdsong as the crickets and bullfrogs began their night calls; the three-hundred-and-sixty-degree sunrise. We were wonderstruck.

We noticed these things with an attentiveness that almost needs a once-in-a-lifetime event to activate. Yet noticing, especially when we can recreate the joy of enchantment through nature, is a restorative act that needs regular infusion. Each time we notice our surroundings, we get out of our heads and enjoy mental rest. We rejuvenate our senses with a delicious buffet of color, scents, and sounds. Clock time becomes irrelevant allowing us to stretch languorously into the present. 

We can’t notice in a hurry. Stillness, concentration, and receptivity are required. But the things we notice when we are not in a rush are remembered and savored like a conversation with an old friend. They are particular; specific. We can call them to mind to renew our delight in having encountered something special and ephemeral. 

We can be nudged, however, into noticing the particulars. On the grounds of the church where I work, a new redbud tree has been planted as a memorial to a loved one who had passed. It’s only a sapling at the moment with a few delicate blossoms. The minister pointed it out to me and mentioned that it’s a companion to one already matured and in bloom. I thought she meant another tree on the grounds that is a giant umbrella of pink which turns out is a cherry blossom tree. The difference, I noticed then, was that the branches of the cherry blossom hang down while redbud branches turn up like arms reaching for the sun.


Noticing does this. It shines a light on the particulars so that we can be in awe of what we miss; what is worth remembering and returning to when the blur of life becomes stagnant and unimpressive. Seeing is a function that orients us in a place. Noticing nourishes the soul.

Elle Harrigan hosts the Instagram community @livingwildwisdom focusing on mindfulness, creativity, and spirituality through encounters with nature.