Sunday, January 26, 2014

Leading indicators (of Spring)

You already know the bad news, we're getting hit with another Arctic blast of very low temperatures and high winds. Here's some good news: Spring is coming.  Earlier today, I checked several of the phenology books in my library. Jim Gilbert's Nature Notebook mentions January 22 as the first time (in 1978) he'd heard cardinals whistling "what-cheer, cheer, cheer," a sure sign of Spring, according to Jim. Larry Weber's Backyard Almanac notes that late January is when red foxes are mating. Pups will be born in late March. Great Horned Owls are also nesting at this time of year. As inexorably as death and taxes, Spring is coming, hard as that may be to believe during the last week of January 2014. For what it's worth, poets like Margaret Atwood clearly join us in our struggle with this time of year.

purple finch and male cardinal in white pine
purple finch (top), male cardinal (bottom)   © harrington


By Margaret Atwood
Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,   
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries   
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am   
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,   
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,   
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,   
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here   
should snip a few testicles. If we wise   
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,   
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over   
again, He shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing   
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits   
thirty below, and pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries   
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

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