The forsythias and dandelions were about two weeks late this year. But when they arrived, late in April and the middle of May, they lit up the drizzle and gloom that seemed to go on for years before the sun last week struck like a bolt of lightning, the temperature shot toward July, and May came masquerading as summer.

On the embankment by the mailbox, tiger lily blades have started strengthening toward June. The red maple by the driveway got its little brick-colored blossoms just about May 1. A week or so later, the skeleton-gray hillsides all over Waldo County turned different shades of the color of absinthe. The shadbush flowers, white with rusty fringes, a little later. Gaudy dogwoods. Birch catkins littering the deck. Sprays of violets and bluets. A crop of starflowers in the making. Suddenly the sun is setting summer-late, and its angles sparkle through new grass and leaf life like electromagnetic geometry in the green evening.

The phoebes showed up on schedule, and by early May I seemed to be hearing more Canada geese than usual leaning northward in the morning. By mid-month ducks, great blue herons, woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches and a kestrel were on the list of avian sightings. Crows in the trees and mourning doves along the driveway. Purple martins in the Unity park by May 16.

On one of the benches on a breezy afternoon about the same time, little wolf spiders were running around like it was a playground. They’d recently left their mother, I imagine, on whose back they rode around as spiderlings for a week or two after hatching, and now they were throwing lines of silk onto the breeze for their ballooning expeditions, flying off to seek their fortunes. A rite of spider spring Stravinsky might have loved.

The egg sac that a huge barn spider spun on a door frame in the park last fall had not yet sprung its babies. But on the other storage shed, furrow spiders with their ornate backs had set up orb shop last week. Pug-faced Pardosas, another kind of wolf spider, have been darting around the leaf litter near the deck.

A cabbage-white butterfly knocked along the footpath in the park. Usually mourning cloaks are bouncing around the driveway by now, but not this year. Paper wasps are buzzing outside the doorway searching for construction sites and aggravating Bonnie. Field ants on the deck, unbelievably busy. The walk to the mailbox is a gantlet of crabapple blossoms and black flies that rose from the brook like boreal demons last week. A friend years ago called this phenomenon “nature’s cruelest joke”: Winter grinds on five or six months until it seems too much to bear, and then summer hits but you still can’t go outside because black flies are waiting to feast on your blood.

Baseball games are already underway in the evening at the park. Kids’ cleats clattering on the pavement, thwack of ball in glove, shouts on the ragged infield, outfielders studying dandelions. They remind me of a long-ago time, when the Little Leaguers marched in the Memorial Day parade, had our team picture taken in the bleachers while we tried to cooperate with silly grins, and then played the first game of the summer in the bugs and sunshine and the overpowering smell of lilacs. The beginning of the show.

Dana Wilde lives in Troy. You can contact him at [email protected] His recent book is “Summer to Fall: Notes and Numina from the Maine Woods” available from North Country Press. Backyard Naturalist appears the second and fourth Thursdays each month.

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