Even though snow is currently falling outside my window, I know that spring is on its way. How do I know that? Because I saw some red maple flower buds (like the ones in the picture) starting to swell last week.
Buds hold the hope of spring in them. They are tightly packed energy sources for new flowers and leaves usually covered in protective scales. As the ground warms up and the amount of sunshine each day increases, the sap starts to flow. One day it finally makes its way to the outer extremities where the flower and leaf buds reside. The cells begin to swell and break forth from the scales. . . Big bud in little scales!
Sometimes the flowers are the first to burst forth, so the wind can take the pollen where it needs to go for pollination to take place before the leaves get in the way.
Other times, the leaves burst forth first, so they can make more food to send to the flowers that are usually more elaborate and pollinated by insects.
When I worked and lived in the Smokies in East TN, I had the pleasure of observing some of the same trees in a phenology (seasonal changes) plot every week. After what seemed like a long winter, it was so exciting to notice the buds starting to swell. I tried to savor those quiet moments in early spring, knowing that everything usually happened pretty quickly after that.
I challenge you to savor these quiet moments at home, in your own backyards and do your best to notice spring arriving. . . look for it, listen for it, smell it, feel it, and if you have a redbud tree or purple violets blooming in your yard, you might even taste it!