Incipience in Thompsonville

Incipience in Thompsonville

Early spring comes to Northern Michigan

By Annis Pratt
Current Contributor

Last week at my cabin, everything was intensely incipient, bursting with coming-into-being. There were the first pale-yellow catkins on the Betsie River willows, the light-green haze of tree buds coming into leaf, and glossy-green swamp buttercup foliage about to—but not quite yet—burst open in those blazing waxy blossoms that herald earliest spring.

The forest floor was covered with speckled trout lily leaves, trillium foliage, and ferns, still curled close to the ground, though already shedding their winter browns. Far back in the forest, the vernal ponds were profound with mud, from which spring peepers and tree frogs would soon squirm their way to the light.

But we still had frosts at night, sleety rain in the morning, and a nippy wind; we humans sat and shivered and tried to crank up enough warmth to protect ourselves from the uncertain temperament of every Northern Michigan spring we have ever known.

Incipience—that signal of things-about-to-happen-but-not-quite-yet—plunges us into a poignancy that is not always an anticipation of something positive; just as often, it hints at something not yet disclosed to worry about, something to fear, some latent problem squirming up from our subconscious to trouble our hearts.

The marvelous spiritual writer Parker Palmer, in an essay on “The View From the Brink,” notes that “most uses of the phrase are negative—as in: on the brink of giving up, or losing my mind, or going to war—even though it can be used positively. Perhaps it’s because, deep in the reptilian brain, we’re afraid of falling from heights or crossing boundaries into the unknown.”

That is when we wish that we could live more like the willows and buttercups, the trout lilies and the trilliums, the frogs and the turtles, whose lives are nourished by seasonal nudges that—as far as we can tell—do not trouble their minds. 

“But isn’t it possible,” queries Palmer, “that we’re on the brink of flying free, or discovering something of beauty, or finding peace and joy?” 

When we begin to peel off our layers and layers of winter torpor to wander along the river and through the forest, all that hopefulness for spring urges us to become verdant with fresh ideas and to summon up our courage for new adventures.

Annis Pratt has a cottage on the Betsie River. She has been a bird watcher since 1947 and finds the banks of the Betsie an absolute bird paradise. She is author of The Infinite Games Series  of adventure novels about a marshland folk who are threatened by the draining of their homeland and of three non-fiction books about the way that myths are used in literature. She is a nature writer, a columnist for the international e-magazine, and was an early contributor to The Betsie Current, back in the 2005-06 days. Visit to learn more or look for her books on Amazon.

Featured Photo Caption: The Betsie River is fed by many spring-fed water brooks. This one runs through the forest behind the author’s cabin. This April was the earliest that the author, Annis Pratt, has ever visited her cabin, so she and her dog friend, Bowie, were able to enjoy more extensive river views, before the foliage came in. They report that there were lots of trout lily foliage and a few flowers, one or two Dutchman’s Britches, but nothing like the trillium, wild orchids, marsh marigolds, skunk cabbage, and morels that would be seen on the forest floor by mid-May. Photo courtesy of Annis Pratt.

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