The Working Waterfront

These are the rules

Spring, when all things are possible

By Courtney Naliboff
Posted 2024-05-30
Last Modified 2024-05-30

These are the rules: When you drive past the cows on Middle Road, you have to yell, “Hi cows!” and wave.

When you hear peepers at twilight, even in your car with the windows rolled up because it’s still dropping into the 30s when the sun goes down, you have to say “Peepers!” in a tone and frequency similar to the peepers themselves.

When a raven calls, gurgling surprisingly musically for a corvidae, you have to call back. Hopefully you’re saying, “Nice to meet you,” and not “Get off my lawn!”

The magnolias are blooming earlier than ever, so you have to stand and stare at them every day…

You have to notice red-winged blackbirds perched in the cattail swamps by the side of the road. They’re only there for a few weeks in the spring, sometime after the pussy willows bloom but before the maples leaf out.

When you turn off the grow lights before bed, you have to say goodnight to the baby tomato and pepper plants. You have to tell them “Good morning” when you turn them back on.

When you leave the house for work, it’s imperative that you say “Bye, pets! I love you! Be good babies!” because otherwise they might prank call the neighbors or put the recyclables in the trash can.

When you’re on the ferry, keep your eye on the water because there might be seals, porpoises, or a bird with a watery name like a gannet or a merganser or just a seagull eating something gross. There could even be a mola mola or a shark. If you don’t look, you’ll never know.

The magnolias are blooming earlier than ever, so you have to stand and stare at them every day as they go from little lipsticks in fuzzy tubes to flowers so elaborate they would look more at home in the tropics. Deeply inhale their gingery scent.

You have to gaze into the center of the hellebore, the tulips, the daffodils to see the glow of the sun through the petals. That confluence of sun and blossom isn’t a guarantee.

The rules state that as soon as there are violets, you need to eat a few to put spring inside your body. You need to watch the apple blossoms hungrily, imagining each one an apple. You’ll be lucky if half of them fruit, and then half again might go to the deer.

But this is spring, when all things are possible. The clustered grape flowers, pear blossoms, and the shadbush are infinitely fruitful in your mind.

I didn’t make the rules, but the rules require that as soon as you think to yourself “It’s hot out here,” you have to get to a beach as quickly as you can, shed your winter plumage, and run into the sea. Just like the magnolias blooming, that day seems to come earlier and earlier.

The rules are in place so our eyes will stay open, our ears alert, our mouths and noses eager. The rules remind us to speak our love out loud. The rules will make sure our skin remembers the shock of cold ocean on the back of our necks, should the waters warm, the fruit shrivel on the vine, or the evening air fall silent.

Courtney Naliboff lives on North Haven where she teaches writing, music, and theater and plays in the band Bait Bag. She may be contacted at