The season of color is here. Violets, apple blossoms, lilacs, dandelions, tulips, a few remaining daffodils, rhododendrons, oranges... Oranges?
    We are not the land of sunsets, like Arizona. My parents live there, and year-round people wear the colors of the sky: azure blue, orange, blazing pink and reds and yellows. "I can always tell when I'm at the right airport gate for Portland, Maine" my mother told me. "Everybody looks drab." It's true. In winter we wear black. And white. And perhaps some nice muted heathery maroons or olive greens. 
     I'm poking fun here, but the truth is if you ever see a Mainer in a bold fuchsia sweater in January, you would make a playful comment about it. Same with orange.
     But secretly we love color.
Baltimore oriole by Anna
     And that is why the arrival of the dramatic-looking and beautiful sounding Baltimore orioles from the tropics is one of the great events of spring. Black and orange, singing like a ripe flute and even chattering voluptuously, the orioles remind us that we are more than heather-colored northerners. We are worthy, vibrant people who want to be seen too. We want them to choose us. And so we put out oranges to attract the the birds, hoping that they will find our neighborhood robust and splendid enough to build their pendulous nests and stay. 
     I see the orange halves sitting on deck rails and hanging from trees as I walk my loop around this old New England village of white clapboard houses. We were shipbuilders and sailors here. Ice cut from our ponds went south packed in sawdust, and molasses and rum came north. What was it like to be the captain who brought the miracle of frozen water blocks to Caribbean islands, and then brought the miracle of sugar back to the land of pine trees? What is it like to be a bird that calls both the tropics and the north woods home?
     I am not a migrant; like the ship captain's wife, I patiently wait each spring for the travelers to return. I love the birds who come first. I love the the swallows, the phoebes, the warblers and hummingbirds. But the rich song and dashing colors of the Baltimore oriole are a thrill, an affirmation of beauty, the sugar to my beloved temperate landscape. 
     Maybe someday Bob and I will migrate to warmer lands, when our children are raised, when winter gets too long. But I can't imagine ever missing the great fervor of life that bursts into color in Maine at this time of year. Get out the oranges. Tune your ears. The orioles are here.


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