Nature's Notebook – Tim Abbott
March, 24, 2011
The water is high, and with all the snowmelt I can see bare ground for the first time since the turn of the year. The frozen earth has a skin of deepening mud, as those who travel our unpaved country roads will discover anew as the weather warms in the coming weeks.
I can remember mud season from when I was growing up in Millbrook, N.Y., when dirt roads became impassible to anything smaller than farm machinery, and these left deep gummy ruts, rimmed overnight with brittle ice teeth.
Sap is welling now and ringing in the pails outside my kitchen window. The hour of daylight added to our afternoons two weekends ago makes the “spring forward” feel faster than its daily accrual of longer light. I look at the ruined yard with its mud and matted grass, and see the litter of sticks and sand left over from the winter not yet over. Without its shroud of snow, it feels sad and shabby, but I curb my desire for a thorough cleaning. The earth must thaw, and more importantly dry out, before I tackle that chore.
There are skunk cabbage flowers in the cold dark swamps, warm at the core and melting toward the very first pollinators. I see the yellow tips of daffodil spears already where the snow lay thick until just last week, and expect to find the beginnings of ramps and trillium in rich woods the next time I visit. Birds are working over the fields and grass where frost still lies at daybreak, and steam rises through the morning.
Spring in New England does not linger. It does not arrive with the groundhog’s shadow. It unfolds gradually in fiddlehead fronds, sings with the evening rain in a chorus of peepers, blushes beneath the leafless trees in the bloom of ephemeral wildflowers. It advances and retreats with the last wet snow, nipped by late frost, chilled by hard rain.
It is nonetheless among our greatest glories, as exuberant as the brilliant autumn leaves, and full of hope and the promise of new life of the sort that Noah must have felt on seeing the green of the olive branch borne over the floodwater on the wings of a dove.
I cannot stay indoors when the world is waking. My feet want to squelch through the warming world. I listen for birdsong, the rasp of redwing blackbirds and the warblers soon to follow. I dart with chimney swifts above the rooftops. I laugh as my children leap in puddles, and wave at neighbors who I only see in winter when it snows. After months of turning inward, the time has come, at last, to face the sun.
Tim Abbott is program director of Housatonic Valley Association’s Litchfield Hills Greenprint. His blog is at greensleeves.typepad.com.
© Copyright 2011 by TCExtra.com
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