by | Mar 20, 2024 | Chris Goff, The Writer's Life | 6 comments

By Chris Goff

Officially, Spring began on March 19th and, if I’m being honest, it’s beautiful in Western Michigan. We moved here a year ago and I’m still acclimating. The transition from Coloradan to Michigander has been more difficult than I ever imagined. I am a mountain girl at heart. I grew up in the hills west of Denver, lived nearly 20 years in the high country, and I loved it there. The sunshine, the snow, the mountains, skiing, the summers. But, I have to admit, Western Michigan is growing on me.

A Penske truck at a gas station in sun.

Rites of Passage Spring

I had little idea what to expect. Circumstances forced the move, and I was heartbroken to be leaving a lifetime of friends, family (though we have family here, too), taking only memories and a truck load of furniture with me. Everyone we talked to couldn’t believe we were coming here. Why not Florida, Arizona or Hawaii? They all said Michigan winters were rough. “It’s cold, dark and gray.”

Maybe it’s a little grayer, but we’ve had a lot of blue-sky days this year. Factor in the mountains, the sun rises and sets about the same time. The temperature is comparable. Colorado is actually hotter in the summer, colder in the winter, and the snowfall here is similar to Colorado’s Front Range. Michigan does get more rain, but it rarely rains all day and often when you don’t care.

Truth be told, It feels more familiar than I expected, especially as we welcome the harbingers of Spring.

On Thursday, March 14th, there was a massive snowfall in Colorado. Four feet of snow in places. Denver saw about a foot. I’ve learned, we can expect to see the Colorado weather here in approximately three days. We won’t see as much snow out of this storm. January is the snowiest month in Michigan, while March is the snowiest month in Colorado (though it’s been February for the last eleven years). True to form, it started snowing here early this week. The wind is blowing, so not much is sticking, but we have a skiff on the deck and it’s cold outside.

The sandhill cranes are here. They start to arrive back in Michigan in March. My husband and I were driving home through the farmlands last weekend and spotted what might have been the first pair of the season touching down in an open field. Here, the best time to see them is actually during the fall migration from October to November. In Colorado, the best time is March. Monte Vista holds an annual festival honoring the cranes during their northern migration.

The snow geese migrating for spring. Black specks in flowing arrow head backdropped by stormy blue skies.
Rites of Passage Spring

Snow geese begin moving through. On the same drive where we spotted the cranes, Wes and I came upon a farm field full of Canada geese, with one or two all-white birds mixed in. Ross’s geese or snow geese?

Years ago, in Colorado, I took my youngest daughter (now a Michigan resident herself) to the High Plains Snow Goose Festival in Lamar, Colorado.

Discover the geese festival in February. A cluster of folks use bird watching supplies, a girl in a brown coat (blond, white) looks through one device, headphones around her head, other eye closed. Around it is dark with early morning. 
Rites of Passage Spring

Held in February, we stayed at the Cow Palace hotel and ventured out to the lake about 4:30 a.m. where we witnessed tens of thousands of snow geese taking flight at sunrise and learned to identify the two types of geese. Unsure what species Wes and I had just seen, I thought of turning around, when we came upon another field blanketed in white birds. Definitely snow geese! With maybe a few Ross’s mixed in. Spectacular!

And the ducks are back at the pond.

Little purple flowers are peeking up in the grass, much like the crocus pop up in Colorado. Please note, I am not a gardener. I like my flowerpots, and I love to look at the flowers. Thankfully, many of my neighbors love to garden, so it’s beautiful around here in the spring. Right now the trees are starting to bud, the flowers are pushing toward the surface.

The golfers are out on the fairways and greens. Neighbors are walking. Kids are out on their scooters and bikes. Just like in Colorado, we are all prematurely wearing shorts and t-shirts, encouraging the warming temperatures.

Of course. The mountains are missing. Sometimes it’s hard to tell direction here. It’s also more humid in Michigan, which makes it feel as hot as Colorado, only drippier. On the plus side, in Michigan, we can have bonfires in the backyard year round. This month there are tulip festivals kicking off to the south of us, and summer brings the promise of beaches.

I’ve lived long enough to know that life brings changes, and it’s best to embrace them. There are dark moments; times you think you might not survive. Then magically Spring shows up, a harbinger of new things to come. I guess it’s time to go dig out my shorts!

Chris Goff, author of novels and this blog: Rites of Passage Spring

Chris Goff 
is the award-winning author of eight novels—six mysteries and two international thrillers. Her books have been finalists for Colorado Book Awards, Colorado Authors’ League Awards and Willa Cather Awards.  In 2016, her debut thriller, Dark Waters, was a finalist for the 2016 Anthony Award for Best Crime Audiobook and took home a gold medal from the Military Writer’s Society of America. A former journalist, Goff is a long-standing member of multiple writing organizations and currently serves on the executive board of the International Association of Crime Writers. When not hard at work, she can often be found gallivanting around the world in search of stories and adventure.

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  1. Karna Small Bodman

    I can certainly agree with you about the cold weather in Michigan. When I attended the University of Michigan, I remember having to wear knee socks until May! We weren’t allowed to have cars, so we rode bikes to our classes – even in the snow, of course. I must say I’m happy to be spending our winter and spring here in Naples, FL now!

    • Chris Goff

      Sounds like Michigan! Right now it’s snowing, with schools closed and inches expected before nightfall. Last week it was 70 degrees. Feels almost like home.

  2. Alex Kava

    The migration of different birds in the sky and in my backyard are usually the first signs of spring for me, too. I love seeing the sandhill cranes and snow geese fill the fields and the sky. Chris, I’m glad Michigan is starting to feel familiar, but I can certainly understand missing the mountains.

    • Chris Goff

      It’s fun watching the birds arrive back at the pond in our backyard. The geese are back in force, the ducks are slowly adding to their numbers, as well. The first year here we had a front row seat to nesting birds and their hatchlings. Hoping we have more this year. I’ve seen robins and the downy woodpecker. Anxious for it to be warm enough to hang out on the deck with my binoculars. If I did that now, my neighbors might think Ii was creepy!

  3. Lisa Black

    I was very reluctant–to put it mildly–about moving to Florida from Ohio, so I can identify with that! It’s the opposite of Ohio, where spring was something to look forward to and celebrate. In Florida it means that the horridly hot & sticky summer is coming; about the only good thing one can say about it is that the traffic thins out as all the snowbirds go back north.

    • Chris Goff

      You have lived in Florida for years now. It must be hard to still miss home so much!