Every year about this time, I realize I'm just sitting here, gazing at the part of the yard I can see from the window by my desk.

Every year about this time, I realize I'm just sitting here, gazing at the part of the yard I can see from the window by my desk.

Of course, I do this quite often all through the year. I call it "thinking," whether or not actual thoughts are involved and whether or not my eyes happen to be closed.

I do it more often in the spring, though, if only because the window offers more scope for the imagination in the spring. Why, right now I can list half a dozen different sights out there: Birds. Buds. Grass. Dandelions. Farm fields. And at the moment, dust. Quite a bit of dust, because the farmers are planting, and their enormous tractors and their enormous, insect-like cultivators are stirring up such clouds of dust that I'm reminded of Eyjafjallajokull, the home of the volcano that caused European air traffic to grind to a halt last week.

Frankly and this is off-topic, but I'm sure you'll agree it needs to be said I suspect to members of the media, the very worst aspect of this whole volcanic-ash-closes-airports-stranding-passengers-including-small-children-and-babies story is having to pronounce "Eyjafjallajokull" again and again in news reports.

Teleprompters probably mangle it, too: "Eejeffallayokel," "Eeyafamalamalocal," "Eeyorefiorellojackal " Having that word come along unexpectedly in a newscast would be almost as horrifying as turning the page to find no page.

Also, I'm just a tiny bit suspicious of that name. No one I know had ever heard of Eyjafjallajokull before, and who's to say it's really a word? Some Icelandic joker probably made it up the first time CNN called, and now the country's too embarrassed to set the record straight.

But I can tell. See those last two syllables, the ones that read "jo-kull"? If that doesn't mean "This word is a joke," I'll eat my hat.

But as I was saying about spring.

Colors are back. Have you noticed? In winter, it's gray. I don't mean the sky is gray, although it is. I mean the sky and the grass and the trees and the bushes are gray. The house and the dog and the cars and other family members are gray.

When I look at the gray world in February, I tell myself that it's just a matter of time. All that will disappear in a few weeks, I say, and the world will have colors again.

Of course I don't believe this. Why should I? It's like expecting early man to believe the world was round. He had no evidence to support such a far-fetched idea, and plenty of evidence to support the theory of world flatness. All those straight lines on the horizon, for example. Straight lines against the sky mean watch out, early man probably said. As Exhibit A, he pointed to a heap of drowned lemmings that only that morning had been seen leaping off the edge of the earth.

But I stray from my point, which is that late winter is traditionally a time of doubt and uncertainty. Oh, you can remember that colors have always returned before; you can tell yourself about the birds flying north and building their nests and bunnies coming out of their rabbit holes to play on the lawn in the evening, but for many of us, these stories seem like ancient myths. The winter's been too long. We're ready to resign ourselves to what we have: Gray, white, and grit.

And then one day I'm sitting at my desk and I notice something. The grass has a tinge of green. Not much, just a hint, but yesterday the yard was taupe-colored and now it isn't, quite.

Another day, I notice a strong streak of green, not to mention some birds hopping around in the grass near the pear tree we planted last year. That makes me look at the pear tree itself and I see them: white blossoms that I swear weren't there yesterday.

After that, it's just a blur: The grass turns a deep, rich, lush green. Dandelions, bless their hearts, grow bushy yellow tops. The pear blossoms turn plump with health, and I realize I've been staring out the window for who knows how long, just looking. I'm pretty sure my mouth's been hanging open. I'm going to remember this, I tell myself. I'll not lose faith again. Next year, during the gray time, I'll remember that colors come back.

Of course, I never do. Every year I forget, and every year I'm amazed in the middle of April.

I think I do it on purpose.

Margo Bartlett is a ThisWeek staff writer.