Tag Archive 'seasonal change'

Mar 10 2017

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Harbinger of Spring

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Surprisingly warm, spring-like temps melted off most of the snow in the Champlain Valley earlier this week. It seemed a little premature at the time. Sure enough, an arctic blast just hit the region, promising single-digit temps this weekend. Yeah, March is like that here in the North Country. Freeze and thaw – perfect weather for sugaring.

I went for a short walk in the nearby ten-acre wood this afternoon. Galvanized buckets hang from most of the maple trees over there. My neighbor likes to collect sap the old fashioned way. Taps and lines are how serious maple syrup operations do it these days. That said, I like seeing the buckets. They have a certain rustic charm.

There’s snow in the long term forecast, along with rain, more warmth, and more frigid temps. Vermonters grumble but everyone knows this is normal. It’s still too early to clean up the yard, but that’ll have to be done soon. The buckets are a harbinger of things to come. I’ve already seen the first migrating geese. And the woodpeckers are busy. Spring is imminent.

My dog Matika and I are both restless. I’m getting over a head cold and more than ready to head for the hills and really stretch my legs. The half-frozen earth underfoot during my short walk was a very good sign. Won’t be long before Matika and I get good and muddy.

The days are much longer now than they were in January. The equinox isn’t far away. My favorite season is almost here. I’m looking forward to it.

 

 

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Nov 22 2016

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Sudden Winter

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backyard-first-snowEven though the weather forecasters gave us plenty of warning, it still came as something of a surprise. Sunday’s rain turned to snow. When I got out of bed yesterday, there were several inches of the white stuff on the ground and my plow guy was clearing the driveway. And this morning it’s still snowing. Egads!

Because the wind is blowing, it’s hard to say how much snow has fallen. A few stray leaves dance across the field of white that my back yard has become. Snow thrown against tree trunks stays there. Beautiful in a Nordic kind of way. The skiers must be ecstatic.

All bundled up, I shoveled a path to my front door roughly 48 hours after walking around in shirtsleeves, bagging leaves. It was still an unseasonably warm autumn on Saturday. Not any more. Now it looks and feels much like a typical Thanksgiving week here in northern New England. Just enough snow on the ground for the hunters to do their thing.

Never a big one for winter sports, I prefer being indoors this time of year, camped in front of the fire burning steadily in the corner stove. Lots of literary work to do, lots of pondering. That said, I won’t be able to stay inside very long. Eventually the wild will call me out. Either that or my dog will start bugging me. Her thick coat was made for this kind of weather.

No doubt temps will rise again and today’s snow will melt away before winter really strikes with a vengeance. Day-to-day and week-to-week, it’s a roller coaster. But there’s no mistaking what time of year it is. The cold, dark season is underway here in the North Country. The grey light in the late afternoon confirms that. So we brace ourselves for the inevitable. Which reminds me: I should dig out my gloves, and get those winter tires on the car. There’s no time to lose.

 

 

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Sep 08 2016

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First Color

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early-fall-colorI can’t believe it’s that time of year already. I look up while running my errands and there it is: a sugar maple starting to turn. Busy with moving, renovating the old place, and cultivating my book business, summer went by even faster than normal. Now here it is autumn.

The first sign of it came last month while I was hiking in the mountains with my grandsons. Hobblebush leaves were turning reddish-brown then – a sure sign of what was coming. Wood asters, one of the last wildflowers to bloom during the growing season, appeared in my back yard as well. And the crickets have been noticeably noisy for a while now.  Yeah, there has been plenty of warning. Still… I can’t quite wrap my brain around it.

Autumn in Vermont is always something special – there’s no doubt about that. I look forward to the crisp cool days, bug-less hikes, and the kaleidoscope of color. I’m returning to my literary work, too, after a four-month intellectual drought. But those of us who live here in the North Country are always a little sad to see summer fade away. The growing season is short in these parts. We never seem to get enough of it.

That said, I’m enjoying these last few barefoot days and consuming as much fresh produce as I can. The trees are turning but it takes a month or so for Mother Nature to change her seasonal garb. No sense getting ahead of ourselves. The present is all that really matters.

 

 

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Mar 16 2016

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An Early Spring

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early iris shootsWhen I first spotted robins last week, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Not until I saw their bright orange bellies up close did I welcome them back. Even then I thought perhaps they’d come back too soon. This is the North Country after all. It’s not unusual for us to get hit with sub-zero temps or a blizzard this time of year.

Yes, I’ve been enjoying the above-average temps this month, and I’m not sad to see the snow melt away. I’ve hiked trails recently that were more mud than frozen ground. But a part of me has remained in winter mode. That is, until I saw them.

A couple days ago, I spotted green shoots pushing up in my garden. Oh sure, the hearty lilies next to my house have been up for quite some time now. They scoff at frost and snow. But the green shoots that have arisen in my garden are something else. They’re early spring irises that usually don’t appear until April.

That did it. After seeing those shoots, I put away my winter coat. I like to spend a night in the mountains in April, as soon as the snow up to fifteen hundred feet is gone. Now I’m thinking I might be able to do that before the end of this month.

Springtime catches me off guard. I’m lost in thought this time of year so the first whiff of unthawed earth on a fifty-degree day always comes as something of a surprise. That said, I can’t remember the season ever starting this early. Not that I’m complaining.

 

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Mar 08 2016

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A Hint of Spring

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March trailI awoke this morning to light coming through the window, and saw a starling at the bird feeder while I was getting breakfast. After reworking a short narrative about hiking in early spring, I could no longer contain myself. I did the bare minimum work necessary to keep my book business going then flew out the door with Matika’s leash in hand. She came running after me, all smiles.

Temps had reached into the mid-40s by the time my dog and I stepped onto the icy trail at Niquette Bay State Park only half an hour from home. A mile out, I stripped off my light jacket and hiked in shirtsleeves as the dusting of snow on the trail underfoot melted away. Two miles out, the frozen mud began to thaw. It was a wonderful thing to behold.

A crow called out in the otherwise quiet woods. I looked up to see patches of blue in a mostly grey sky. The trees were motionless in the still air. I stopped frequently during the hike just to groove on the snowless forest all around me. It was a wonderful thing to behold.

Is it still winter? Do I dare think of this as the beginning of an earlier-than-usual spring? It’s a hint of spring to be sure, and for that I am grateful. I am a creature of the warmer months. I’ve done enough winter ruminating already. So bring it on! Tomorrow, I hear, is going to be a surprisingly warm day. I can’t wait.

 

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Oct 06 2015

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That Time of Year

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RT fall foliageSeems like the autumnal color is a week or two late, and not nearly as vibrant as it has been in the past. Chalk that up to a run of hot days in September, I suppose. But that doesn’t change the fact that the leaves turning is as inevitable as the days getting shorter. It is, after all, that time of year.

Taking a break from work at midday to walk my dog Matika and stretch my legs, I meander along the Rail Trail for a while. The contrast between remnant summer-like green leaves and the gold, burnt orange, and rusty ones gets my attention, emptying my mind of business matters – at least temporarily. Time marches along, as the seasons attest. We are wise not to ignore it.

A caterpillar labors in front of me. Squirrels race across the trail, gathering their winter foodstuffs. The other day I saw a telltale V of geese leaving Canada. No hard frost yet, but a thin coating of it covered the top of my car a couple days ago. Yeah, we’re getting there.

On the Rail Trail, a young woman breezing past on a bicycle notices me taking a picture of the colorful foliage overhead. “Finally!” she says gleefully, “Getting rid of the green!” I don’t share her enthusiasm. The warm season is never long enough for me.

In a month or two, I’ll be missing the color of vegetative growth. Then again, seasonal change is nice. I wouldn’t want to live in Florida. I just wish it didn’t all happen so quickly. It’s hard keeping up.

 

  

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Sep 15 2015

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Between Seasons

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town forest pondIn the middle of the workday, I load my dog Matika into the car and drive to the town forest just a few miles outside of Saint Albans. Cooped up for several days running, Matika needs to get outside and stretch her legs. Quite frankly, so do I.

The trail is still damp from yesterday’s daylong rain, but the sun shines brightly through the forest canopy. I break a sweat in a manner of minutes. Summer lingers like an unwelcome guest at the end of a party, despite the fact that the trees are starting to turn.

Not far from the parking lot, I come upon a small pond with a few birdhouses around it to encourage avian habitation. I stop for a moment to take in the juxtaposition of summer heat and the rusted leaves of a couple red maples. It’s a win/win situation as far as I see things. I like autumn just as much as fall.

Continuing along the trail, I notice blue asters in bloom. That’s a between-season wildflower to be sure, just as comfortable in summer heat as autumn coolness. Seeing it reminds me of my long September hike through the Adirondacks a few years back. Since then I haven’t been able look at blue asters without smiling. They are denizens of the deep woods in late summer and early fall, even though they grow pretty much everywhere.

The smell of the forest in September – that’s what I like most about this time of year. It’s a dry, earthy fragrance with just a hint of floral sweetness. It’s as if the forest is satisfied with itself. Once again the growing season has been a success. Now there is only this pleasant coasting towards colder, darker days.

And yet I am not complacent. Wildness stirs within me with each step I take. Even though this is only a lunch hour hike, I hunger for a much longer excursion into the woods. Soon, very soon, I hope – before the snow flies.

 

 

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Apr 14 2015

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First Flowers

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early spring irisI couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked out the window this morning. I ran out the door, straight the skeletal remains of last year’s flower garden, and there it was: a tiny patch of early spring irises in bloom. I reached down to touch them, doubting Thomas that I am. Sure enough, they are real.

It really is springtime. The first flowers of the season prove it and, wouldn’t you know it, they popped up right under my nose here at home. Robins, starlings and other migrating birds have been announcing the season for quite some time now, but it hasn’t really sunk in. It takes a flower to chase the last wintry thoughts from my head.

My dog Matika and I hiked around Indian Brook Reservoir yesterday as temps rose into the 70s for the first time this year. The trail was mostly cold mud with the occasional patch of dirty ice. A barred owl hooted in the middle of the afternoon, adding yet another surreal layer to the surprising experience of hiking soft earth in shirtsleeves. I came home and opened the windows, still expecting it to snow again. After all, it snowed just last week.

The green shoots of the day lilies in my front yard have been pushing up with such persistence that I felt inclined to mulch them this afternoon. Every year I undergo this rite of passage from the colder season to the warm one. This year I’ve gotten to it a little later than usual, still traumatized by winter. But lilies don’t care how cold or snowy it was. They live in the Now.

“So that’s it,” I said to myself while slowly picking up debris in my yard, gingerly stepping around the spongy wet patches still saturated with snowmelt. Then I put away my snow shovels. There’s no point in dwelling upon the past.

 

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Apr 06 2015

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Eternal Renewal

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NiqBay.AprilEarly spring. A few patches of ice and snow still linger on the forest floor, and the ground is still frozen beneath a few inches of cold mud. No matter. My dog Matika and I are on the move at the beginning of yet another warm season. With temps just barely above freezing, I use the word “warm” loosely here, of course.

To those of us who revel in eternal renewal, it is quite clear what is happening. Slowly but surely, the natural world is awakening from its long winter sleep. The forest and fields are still brown for the most part, but the robins have returned, the squirrels are busy, and streams are roiling with snowmelt. The first flowers are still weeks away, but I am encouraged by the give of soft earth underfoot.

I amble down the trail following my younger self. A year older and slightly less agile, I marvel at this wild world full of growth and decay. Already the buds of trees are swelling. Already pine cones are chewed to pieces. Of the thousands of acorns beneath my boots a few are already on their way to becoming great oaks, while the bones of newly fallen trees litter the forest floor. Nature is cold and cruel, yet it is also warm and embracing. It changes faces with the seasons. Now begins a more ambient season.

Eternal renewal. With each passing year, I travel farther away from a supernatural god and closer to a natural one. Wild places fill me with awe. I see in them a power that trumps all human ambition – the endless, dynamic interplay of elemental forces and the countless forms that they take. I am in love with the world even as it slowly saps my strength, pushing me ever closer to my inevitable demise. Why? Because the wild and I are one in the same, because there is a part of me that will never die – the part of me that is nature. I worship it with every breath I take. Nature exists! All is not chaos.

 

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Mar 24 2015

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Bare Ground

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bare Rail TrailWith temps hovering around freezing, it hardly feels like spring, but I had a hankering to get outside all the same. I wanted a little bare ground to walk on so I stayed here in the Champlain Valley this morning, leaving the snow-covered mountains for another day. My dog Matika didn’t care where we went as long as we got out of the house.

To my pleasant surprise I found the nearby Rail Trail mostly clear of snow. I hiked down it at a good clip, thoroughly enjoying the traction my boots purchased in the soft gravel underfoot. The few patches of ice that I crossed reminded me how tedious it is getting around in winter – more like skating than walking.

I pressed forward, reveling in the joy of free movement over bare ground. It was something I hadn’t been able to do since last fall. Funny how we miss the simplest things when we can’t do them.

It has been a long, hard winter – one of the coldest in memory. But the remnant snow piles around our driveways are only shadows of their former selves, the days are long now, and the first green shoots of the lilies in front of my house are pushing up through the detritus. Soon the migrating birds will return and the buds of trees will start swelling. Then we’ll all be giddy with vernal delight. It’s inevitable.

 

 

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