Tag Archive 'springtime'

May 13 2018

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Springtime Overnighter

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A couple days into a run of relatively warm, dry, sunny weather, I decided to take full advantage of the situation. I set all work aside earlier this week, packed a few essentials into my old rucksack, and headed for the Breadloaf Wilderness.

There’s a nice spot on the headwaters of the New Haven River where I’ve camped several times before. After leaving my car at the trailhead, I hiked there. It didn’t take long to reach that campsite, even with my old dog Matika hobbling along slowly behind me.

No bloodsucking bugs this early in the season so I set up my tarp without attaching the mosquito bar. Gathering wood was easy since I was camped off trail. I fashioned a small campfire circle that I would make disappear when I left. With that bright yellow orb beating down through the leafless canopy, I didn’t start a fire right away. It was enough just to sit next to the stream, listening to the endless rush of water breaking over rocks while basking in sunlight.

When the sun finally slipped beneath the trees, I put a match to a tipi of birch bark and kindling in the campfire circle. I was startled by how quickly the fire took off, and made it a point to keep it very small and controllable with bottles of water close at hand. Matika entertained herself by chewing up some of the sticks in my woodpile.

Spending a night in the woods was just what I needed after a long winter of philosophical speculation. Temps dropped fast once the sun went down, though, and Matika crowded me off my foam pad. Not the best night’s sleep, but arising to the song of a waterthrush, a refreshing mountain breeze, and early light breaking through the forest made me thankful to be alive.

I lingered for hours over a morning campfire before slowly packing up and hiking back to the car. I was giddy all the way home, rolling through the Champlain Valley as the trees slowly leafed out. Springtime in Vermont, after a long snowy winter, is absolutely wonderful.

 

 

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May 04 2018

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A Necessary Walk

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My dark rant came way too early this morning. Judy fled the room before breakfast was over to escape it. And that’s when I knew how badly I needed a walk in the woods. So I squeezed one in, right between a trip to the post office and a round of book promotion. Some things just can’t wait.

All winter long I have been pondering the human condition, trying to figure out what exactly it means to be human, how wildness and civilization factor into that, and how we’ve become the highly cognizant yet deeply flawed creatures that we are today. This isn’t a matter for the faint of heart, and I’ve found myself bogged down in the morass of morality more than once. Yeah, everyone’s got an opinion when it comes to human nature, how good and/or bad we are, but the irrefutable facts are few and far between. So my quest has put me in a surly mood, even as spring unfolds.

To walk in the woods and blow the stink off my thoughts I didn’t have go far. A quick jaunt up Aldis Hill did the trick. I knew there would be early spring wildflowers in bloom, and that would improve my outlook on things if anything could. Sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed. Bloodroot appeared amid the boulders, purple trilliums and trout lilies lined the muddy trail, and Dutchman’s breeches strutted its stuff near the top of the hill. I stopped to admire the wildflowers almost as much as my dog Matika stopped to sniff around. It’s like that sometimes. My primary task as Homo sapiens, it seems, is to simply admire God’s handiwork. That’s when I feel the most like myself and at peace with the world, anyhow.

I haven’t figured it out yet. My query into human nature is unfinished business, to say the least. But I’m already convinced that our relation to nature is critical to understanding who/what we are. So these walks of mine are necessary in more ways than one. We go into the wild not so much to escape the trappings of civilized society as to find ourselves, to make a primal connection and remember, on some level of awareness, where we came from… and thereby figure out where we are going.

When I get a good bead on human nature, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’ll just keep on wandering and wondering and scribbling down these little absurdities that I call philosophy. If nothing else, it keeps me from being one of those self-righteous fools who engage in unrestrained violence. Yeah, a walk in the woods is absolutely necessary.

 

 

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May 09 2017

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Year of the Lily

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Green explosion. My eyes drink in the bright, light verdure suddenly appearing in the bushes and trees this time of year, and I am happy enough. Green is all I need. But there are wildflowers scattered across the forest floor as well. They seem an extravagance. Then robins and other migrating birds join resident cardinals and chickadees in a midday chorus, and it is almost too much.

I fear that I might awaken to find myself at the beginning of yet another dreary winter day. But no, all this is real, along with the rabbits and other critters that I encounter during my long walks, and the peepers that break into song at dusk. It is the middle of spring and Nature is just beginning to strut her stuff.

Wildflowers are an extravagance, indeed. Dutchman’s breeches, round-lobed hepatica, spring beauty, bloodroot, wild ginger and violets all bloom early, then comes a tidal wave of lilies. A few days ago, I came upon patch after patch of trout lilies in full bloom. Yesterday I saw white trilliums sprawled along the trail. And more lilies are on the way. In the wooded, un-lawned portion of my back yard I’ve discovered an assortment of them – bellwort along with purple and white trilliums. I am seeing wild lilies everywhere it seems. There are more of them this year than I’ve ever seen before, or is it just my imagination?

This green and flowering world is too beautiful for words. On a geological time scale, flowering plants are an anomaly. They’ve only been around for 130 million years. That’s a small fraction of the Earth’s history. Fortunately, we are here when flowers are. There’s probably a good reason for that. This green and flowering world is our world. And I for one quietly celebrate that fact each and every springtime morning.

 

 

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Apr 19 2017

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Prospect Rock

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With all the rain in the forecast for this week, it seemed a crime to waste a fair day staying indoors. So I grabbed my rucksack and hike boots before heading to Hyde Park to do some book hunting yesterday. I worked the book sale for a couple hours, then drove to a trailhead for the Long Trail just west of Johnson.

My dog Matika was overjoyed at the prospect of hiking in the woods again. Finally! It’s been days! And a day without a hike is a day wasted as far as she’s concerned. Hmm… She might be on to something.

It’s a short hike from the road to Prospect Rock, but it feels longer due to the 500-foot ascent. Got me huffing and puffing, anyhow. One look from the cliffs made it all worthwhile. The Lamoille River Valley unfolded before me in all its springtime beauty. Not much green other than conifers, and still a little snow in the distant peaks, but beautiful all the same.

I settled into a depression in the rock to eat my lunch and enjoy the view. Matika sniffed around – a bit too close to the edge at times. I called her back. A pair of hawks rode the thermals overhead. The sun burned brightly in the mostly clear sky, warming both me and the rock. A few other hikers came and went, otherwise I had the place to myself.

Early spring. I find it difficult to be unhappy this time of year. The warm season is just beginning and the prospects for a lot of day hiking look good. I hiked out of the woods thinking that these combination work/play outings might be just the thing this year. Any way to get outdoors is a good way. Matika concurs.

 

 

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May 27 2016

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The Ten-acre Wood

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10 Acre WoodTemps reached into the 90s today – the hottest day so far this year. Ridiculously hot for May. I went for a short walk in nearby woods anyway.

After visiting the house under construction that will soon be home to Judy, my dog Matika and me, I slipped into the Ten-acre Wood. That’s the name I’ve given the woodlot less than a hundred yards from where I will most likely spend the rest of my life. Most of the woodlot will be developed someday, but for the time being it’s mine to enjoy.

I’ve been following the procession of wildflowers in the Ten-acre Wood since early spring when bloodroot and hepatica came out. Trilliums and trout lilies soon followed, then came violets, bleeding hearts, and a host of subtle bloomers. Most of those are gone now as the canopy overhead has closed. But today I found Jack hidden in the lush greenery covering the forest floor. Jack-in-the-pulpit, that is – a wildflower that is easily missed.

Jack’s an old friend of mine. We’ve had some good times together during my past springtime excursions into deep woods. It’s good to see him taking up residence close to where I’ll soon be living. Or is it the other way around?

No doubt I will make other delightful discoveries in that woodlot during the years ahead. I still plan on making lots of trips to much wilder places, but it’s nice knowing that I’ll soon be able to take a twenty-minute break from my computer and tramp this small, wild place. Sometimes a few minutes among the trees is all I need to clear my head. What a blessing to have such a place close by!

 

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Apr 29 2016

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Taking Time to Walk

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InBkRes springI took my dog Matika with me when I went book hunting in Burlington the other day. That was a commitment to go for a walk at some point. It can’t be all about work all the time. Actually it can be, but that’s not healthy. So I had Matika (and my hiking boots) in the car to remind me what’s important, to lend a little balance to my life.

The trail around Indian Brook Reservoir is a nice, two-mile loop. Can’t do it in the summer because the locals keep the place for themselves. But this time of year it’s available. It’s an easy way to get a woods fix when a trip to the mountains is out of the question.

No leaves on the trees yet, but the trail was dry beneath an azure sky. A few patches of conifers provided sufficient shade. I spotted a fellow on the water fishing from a canoe and thought to myself: man, that’s the way to go. But tramping around the reservoir was good enough for me for the time being. Besides, I needed the exercise.

A woodpecker knocking, a duck sighting, and a few wildflowers blooming across the bleached forest floor – it doesn’t take much to make me happy this time of year. As for Matika, well, she was having a great time between sniffing, chasing chipmunks, and doing a meet-n-greet with half a dozen other dogs encountered along the way. She gave me big sloppy kisses when we got back to the car. I took that as her way of saying “thank you.”

I wish I could can this feeling one has after a mere hour walking outdoors. It always clears my head, and I work better afterward as a result. Yet I have to force myself, more often than not, to take the time to do it. I wonder why that is.

 

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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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Feb 16 2015

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Late Winter Daydream

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spring bushwhackI’ve put off thinking about it as long as possible, but now the prospect of a leisurely ramble through a lush green forest strikes with irresistible force. There’s something about the strength of the February sun that sets up this daydream. The jet stream remains well south of here and subzero temps persist as they rarely have in years past, but the wild man in me responds to bright sunlight all the same.

On some level I know this deep freeze can’t last. When it breaks I’ll be hiking across cold mud. Then the verdure will come out, slowly but surely. It’s inevitable.

Funny how we get used to the white landscape, to the frost nipping at our cheeks, chapped hands and lips, and that dull ache in the lower back from shoveling snow. Though I wouldn’t call it warm, temps in the teens seem normal to me now. And I’ve grown accustomed to being indoors most of the time. All the same, I catch myself dreaming of spring at least once each day. My favorite season is only a month or so away.

Don’t get me wrong. I know exactly what time of year it is and how long winter lasts here in the North Country. I’m keeping my snowshoes handy. I’m doing my best to live in the present. Still this longing for the green forest can’t be brushed aside. I’m a vernal creature at heart.

 

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May 12 2014

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Leaf Out

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early spring foliageLeaves burst forth all around me as I meander along a path cutting through the woods. The forest floor is covered with trilliums, trout lilies, violets, and a host of other wildflowers. The songbirds are all singing – robins have been at it since the first glimmer of predawn light. I don’t know how long the warblers have been back, but I see them all around me now.  The natural world is coming alive and I am giddy with it.

What is this feeling overtaking me just now, like an inner glow that won’t quit?  Is this happiness?  Is it possible to be driven to joy by the mere outbreak of blue sky, balmy temps and fresh verdure? Of course it is. We are more creatures of the earth than we care to admit.  The robins are rejoicing.  Why shouldn’t we?

Matika lags behind me, backlogged in smells that she has found along the way. She is smiling. Some say that animals do not express emotion, but I know when my dog is happy. Quite often her moods are a reflection of mine. We both like to run wild for a day.

Springtime is so glorious that words cannot do it justice – especially now as everything brown suddenly turns green after such a long wait.  I grab a branch and pull an apple blossom close to my nose, inhaling deeply, intoxicated by its perfumed insinuation into the world. And to think the growing season is only beginning…  No wonder I’m so giddy.

Had I but one month to live, I would choose May, when there is nothing afoot but promise and potential, when the bee and the butterfly are just starting to go about their business, when the memory of a cold, dark winter is still fresh in my mind. And, as I sit on a knoll overlooking a drowned marsh where marigolds thrive, I can’t help but feel lucky to be alive and experiencing all this once again, one more time.

Indeed, it is too glorious for words.

 

 

 

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May 04 2014

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A Fiery Moment

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fiery treesLike most people here in the North Country, I plod along through a seemingly endless succession of grey, rainy days, waiting for that outburst of verdure called springtime. It is May, after all, and the brown month following winter is behind us.

Then it happens.

The sky breaks open and the dull landscape suddenly comes alive. I step outside for a better look at trees awash in fiery light. The sun has dropped below the rainclouds and is now hovering above the western horizon. Am I hallucinating?

A light rain dampens my skin but I don’t care.

And then, as if illumination wasn’t enough, a rainbow arcs across the sky. Despite any scientific explanation, it is truly a mystical phenomenon. The world we inhabit is too marvelous for words.

Wildness is everywhere.

 

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