Tag Archive 'signs of spring'

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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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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May 20 2015

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Green World

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vernal eveThe sky breaks open just before dusk, giving the setting sun a chance to illuminate the verdure all around me. I haven’t been paying close attention. Suddenly all the trees have leafed out, lilacs and crab apple trees are in full bloom, and air is full of birdsongs. Where have I been?

Hiking through the woods the other day, I found only a few violets and lilies in bloom. The canopy has closed already, bringing an end to the opportunism of the early spring wildflowers so thick on the forest floor. It all happens so quickly.

The mosquitoes are out now. I took a few hits the other day. A few drops of blood seem a small price to pay for the vernal beauty that is everywhere on display. Dark clouds gather but now they only mean one thing: a good watering. Suddenly I am living with the elements, not against them.

We live in a green world. This is not apparent in the depths of winter, but in May it is undeniable. I work some bark mulch around the plants in my flower garden, surprised by how much they’ve grown already. I hadn’t noticed, until now. Nature steadily advances despite how distracted we are by other things. It seems a waste of time to do anything but revel in it.

 

 

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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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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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Mar 02 2015

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Approaching Spring

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Snowmelt puddleAs I sit on the side porch, warmed by sunlight beaming though closed windows, it doesn’t seem to me like spring is far away at all. Snow is piled several feet deep in my front yard and around the driveway, but I can see pavement and the icicles hanging down from the roof are dripping constantly. With the thermometer reaching into the 20s, we’re experiencing a heat wave compared to the steady parade of subzero temps last month. That’s encouraging.

It’s March now. The Vernal Equinox is only a few weeks away. And while those of us who have lived here in the North Country a decade or more know better than to start looking for robins, the maple sap should start running soon. Surely that counts for something.

In my driveway there’s a puddle of snowmelt, and in that puddle I see the reflection of a relentless sun. I find stark beauty in that reflection as well as in the craggy, half-melted edges of ice nearby. For those paying attention, and I’m sure the birds at my feeder are doing just that, the early signs of seasonal change are clear. Yes, some nasty winter storms come our way in March, but a big thaw will soon take place regardless.

That’s what is nice about the seasons here in northern New England. Just when you think the heat/cold/rain is never-ending, things change. Nothing lasts so long that it devastates us – not if we pay careful attention. Things change. It’s only a matter of time.

 

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Apr 15 2014

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Awakening

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hepatica 2014With temps shooting into the 70s, I dropped everything yesterday morning and went for a hike. Niquette Bay seemed the place to go: low elevation and close to home. Still too much snow in the mountains.

The first thing that struck me when I stepped out of the car was the smell of trees, forest duff and raw earth. That’s something I’ve missed terribly.

Ah, to have a soft muddy trail underfoot again! Remnant patches of snow lay hidden in shadowy places. A blazing sun illuminated the forest. And the air was full of birdsongs – robins, chickadees, and some other bird whose name I’ve forgotten over the long, hard winter.

Not far into my hike, I heard peepers in the distance. I left the trail in search of them – woods wandering once again. I stumbled into a vernal pool where a solitary wood frog floated. He clucked away incessantly as I kept a respectful distance. Then returning to the trail, I spotted something that took my breath away: round-lobed hepatica in full bloom. Considering how the snow and ice have lingered well past the Vernal Equinox, how is that possible?

A fierce wind blew cold across Lake Champlain. Down by water’s edge, I listened to fragmented ice tinkle as it jammed against the shoreline. Back on the trail, I crossed burbling rivulets of spring run-off making their way towards the lake. The elements on the move again.

Near the crest of a hill, while tramping dreamily along the trail with my dog Matika, a mourning cloak butterfly fluttered past. From a ledge I saw snow still clinging to cold, blue mountains in the distance, making me wonder.  Then a woodpecker telegraphed a message across the forest, removing all doubt as to what time of year it is.

In shirtsleeves yet sweating, I burned off the last of an indoor funk. Hope springs eternal in wild nature, when the world suddenly awakens.

 

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Apr 18 2013

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Vernal Pools

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frogsYesterday I went into the woods searching for the sights and sounds of spring. I wasn’t disappointed. Despite naked trees and the conspicuous absence of green, woodpeckers telegraphed their desires, ruffed grouse drummed, and a chorus of spring peepers announced the beginning of the season.

I went searching for vernal pools and found them in likely places – slight depressions in the forest floor where snowmelt collects this time of year, where small colonies of frogs magically appear to croak away any remnant of winter.

I knelt down next to a pool oblivious to the cool dampness still in the earth, and watched the frogs swim about. The water’s surface rippled every time the frogs sprang forth. They croaked alarm to each other regarding my presence then went about their amphibious business unperturbed. I wasn’t a threat as long as I didn’t move.

A bit later, on a south-facing slope soaking up the sun, I found a patch of wild leeks flaunting their verdure. I tore off the tip of one and chewed it. The pungent flavor was both familiar and heartwarming. Then I spotted them: small patches of round-lobed hepatica in bloom among the leeks. Their delicate petals burst forth atop fuzzy stems curling away from the earth. The first wildflower of the year was emerging so early I could hardly believe it.

I left the woods feeling a little giddy. I get that way every time the wild takes me by surprise. I went searching for spring and found more than I could have hoped for. After all these years, you’d think I would have it figured out by now. But there’s something about the natural world that’s eternally new, especially on days like these.

 

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Mar 25 2013

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On the Verge

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lily shootsThe green shoots of day lilies push up relentlessly through the half frozen soil in my front yard, as if seasonal change is inevitable. The tips of some are frostbitten, brown and withered, but they keep coming anyway. A recent big dump of snow convinces the winter weary among us that spring will never come. Yet in some ways it’s already here.

The buds on the maple tree in my back yard are red and swollen. The sap has been running for weeks. A red-winged blackbird – migrating north to be sure – landed in it a few days ago. A cardinal sings loudly from the top of another tree, establishing his territory early. There are a lot of squirrel tracks in the snow now. The snow itself is slowly disappearing in a barely discernible melt-off driven more by sunlight than warm temperatures. Yeah, to those of us paying careful attention, the spring season has already begun.

“See how the snow is drying up?” I kept telling my wife Judy yesterday, to the point where she grew annoyed with me. I couldn’t help myself. My favorite season is on the verge, and all I want to do is sing about it as the wild birds do. One daylong rain will make it obvious to everyone. The Vernal Equinox is behind us. The natural world is awakening from its long sleep.

 

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