Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sing Spring songs

Negative number highs are back in Thursday's forecast. That sent me to my phenology books to see what's "normal" for this time of year. I've again discovered how abnormal normal is when it comes to Minnesota's weather. Jim Gilbert's Nature Notebook for February 23, 1978 (one of my first years in Minnesota) reads "Today at 11:11 a.m. we broke the long string of below freezing days. The Twin Cities area temperature hasn't been above 32°F since December 18, sixty-six days ago..." Since we had our little thaw last week, we haven't beaten that record this year. Another encouraging report comes from February 27, 1975 where Jim reports "We haven't had a really warm day, we still have one to two feet of snow on the ground, and yet the air is filled with avian strains. The cardinals and chickadees continue their whistling, woodpeckers their drumming, and white-breasted nuthatches together with nearby blue jays continually break forth with their special spring songs." We should see the first active chipmunks of the year sometime between now and March 11. Maybe they'll help us greet the first canada geese which should be returning about then.

chickadee in oak tree
winter chickadee          © harrington

As more and more of us live in cities and suburbs we too often loose contact with the natural world. We become reliant on technology (weather forecasts delivered on radio, TV and the Internet) and, as we go from our attached garages, down the road to the garage or parking lot at work and into the work place, we often don't slow down enough to listen for the songs of Spring. I was often guilty of that pattern myself. It seems to me that, more and more, we spend too much time and focus too much attention on earning a living instead of having a life. I keep reading about the studies that show how, after a certain level of income is reached, more money doesn't make us any more happy. I hope our kids read those studies soon. It's bad enough that a cardinal probably knows more about the inevitability of Spring than I do. I'd hate to think that a bird brain like that might be happier than a smart guy like me who's learned not to take happiness for granted but hasn't figured out how to put some aside.

purple finch and male cardinal in pine tree
purple finch and male cardinal in pine tree   © harrington

The Trickle-Down Theory of Happiness

By Philip Appleman 

Out of heaven, to bless the high places,   
it falls on the penthouses, drizzling   
at first, then a pelting allegro,
and Dick and Jane skip to the terrace   
and go boogieing through the azaleas,   
while mommy and daddy come running   
with pots and pans, glasses, and basins   
and try to hold all of it up there,
but no use, it’s too much, it keeps coming,   
and pours off the edges, down limestone
to the pitchers and pails on the ground, where   
delirious residents catch it,
and bucket brigades get it moving   
inside, until bathtubs are brimful,   
but still it keeps coming, that shower   
of silver in alleys and gutters,
all pouring downhill to the sleazy   
red brick, and the barefoot people   
who romp in it, laughing, but never   
take thought for tomorrow, all spinning   
in a pleasure they catch for a moment;   
so when Providence turns off the spigot   
and the sky goes as dry as a prairie,
then daddy looks down from the penthouse,   
down to the streets, to the gutters,   
and his heart goes out to his neighbors,   
to the little folk thirsty for laughter,   
and he prays in his boundless compassion:   
on behalf of the world and its people   
he demands of his God, give me more.

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Please be kind to each other while you can.