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Spring

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Early each March, we Rock Islanders who plan to attend the spring concert begin taking our places in the amphitheater we call the Mississippi Valley. Spring on Rock Island is the overture to the grand symphony of summer.

After a winter of hibernation, concertgoers walk stiffly at first, picking up a lost trowel or spade uncovered by melting snow, or poking sticks in the garden beds, or dropping a leaf in the stream running down to the street edge, as they make their way to the concert.

Early comers get to watch the musicians straggle in from off stage and take their places. Robins are usually the first, followed by chickadees and grackles. Wrens, knowing how important their solo parts are, never bother to show up until the last minute. Now the pussy willows swell and show their first silver, while the spears of crocus and the blue-gray fuzz of pasque flowers push above last year's brown cover. A kite goes up here and there.

Even the sounds of tuning up are pleasant: the drips of water off disappearing icicles, the drumming of a woodpecker trying out a new tree.

Then, the overture begins. Not even our best meteorologists see the baton move, but we wake up one morning and the valley is basked in warm sun. It's almost seventy degrees. We quiet into a hush; wherever we are, we stop and listen.

We have heard the music before, but it's still all new. We had remembered the large themes of rebirth and renewal, growth, and maturation, but we always seem to have forgotten the many smaller themes and solo parts that texture the music of spring so richly—a menu of what is to come. Those parts played by the Jack-in-the-Pulpit and the Dutchman's Breeches, the whole fern section and their trills, the point and counterpoint of bird and animal.

Too soon, the overture is done. We applaud sadly, trying to recall the good passages. The musicians retune their instruments, practice a run or two, while the audience stretches in their seats, and settles back for the symphony of summer to follow.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.