Tag Archive 'flora and fauna'

Apr 27 2024

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The Unfurling of Spring

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photo by Judy Ashley-McLaughlin

Late April is a glorious time of year here in northern Vermont. The snow and ice are gone in all but the highest elevations and the remote corners of the state, the trees are covered with catkins kicking out their pollen, the swollen buds of bushes are beginning to open, and the grass is greening everywhere, everywhere. Oh sure, there is still plenty of brown in the leafless forests and tilled fields, and the occasional snow flurry on colder days reminds us of winter’s recent passing. But the blazing sun is working its magic all the same.

We are well into the growing season now, even though it’s too early to break out the shorts and flip flops. Some people anxiously await those 75-degree days, resenting the rawness of the first half of spring. “Mud season,” some Vermonters call it contemptuously, but I am never as hopeful as I am this time of year. Every day brings a new development in the natural world, and directly ahead of us is the warmer half of the year and endless green.

In the mountains a little over a week ago, I tramped in cold mud next to a raging brook up to its banks in snowmelt. Walking along the Rail Trail the other day, I spotted wood frogs and clusters of their eggs in ephemeral pools. Spring peepers sing out every night from nearby wetlands; songbirds do the same during the day. Robins, blackbirds, and other migrators showed up weeks ago, and hummingbirds are not far away. Ants, mosquitoes, and scores of other insects are busy now. Worms appear whenever I scratch the soil with my rake. The resident chipmunk has come out of his burrow, running circles around me until I hand over some nuts. The sun is now up early in the morning – almost as early as I am. And it’s all happening at once!

But it’s the flowering plants that drive home the drama of endless renewal this time of year. In the wilder corners of my back yard, round-lobed hepatica and spring beauty are in bloom, along with the less obvious wild ginger. I kneel down before them for a closer look. In tamer places, a solitary pansy struts its stuff – an outrageous burst of yellow. The bright green leaves of columbine and bleeding hearts have already leafed out – the latter sporting clusters of pink and white flowers on the verge of opening. I can hardly believe my eyes…

Then yesterday late afternoon I stumbled upon a patch of purple trilliums on the forest floor, already in full bloom. I nearly swooned from it. What an incredible world this is! How fortunate to be alive! There is nothing more miraculous than the unfolding of spring, and no joy greater than being totally immersed in such fecundity. That’s what an unrepentant pantheist like me feels this time of year, anyhow.

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Feb 18 2022

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Walt Franklin’s New Book

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I am pleased to announce the release of Walt Franklin’s latest collection of essays, Learning the Terrain: Reflections on a Gentle Art, under the Wood Thrush Books imprint. Fly-fishing is the gentle art here, of course, and Franklin is quite adept at it. But this is more than just another fisherman telling tall tales. Franklin is a naturalist with a bamboo rod in hand, a poet wading clear mountain streams. Yes, there is a little poetry mixed into this prose, and a lot of prose that reads like poetry.

Along with plying waters of his home bioregion – upstate New York and north-central Pennsylvania – Franklin recounts excursions to classic trout rivers out west and catching salmon in the tributaries flowing into Lake Ontario. He also tries his hand at saltwater fishing. But it’s the moments when he tunes into the wildness all around him that edifies the reader. Franklin is at home in the natural world. This comes out loud and clear in his work.

After publishing five other books of his, I had resolved to move onto other nature writers. Then I read this collection and felt it had to be ushered into print. You can acquire a copy of this book by going to the Wood Thrush Books website. It is also available at Amazon.com. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

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