Tuesday, March 3, 2015

'Tis the seasons

Yesterday, our pear tree received its second annual pruning. We'll see how well it turns out. It's almost, but not quite, like getting a hair cut. If it doesn't turn out well, you hope it will be better when it grows back in. Even three years ago, the branches were crowded (see picture). We're making some progress, we think. The bottom branches were doing more to feed the deer than giving us fruit, so they're getting thinned first. As we work our way toward the top, it becomes easier, and safer, to properly align a ladder and reach where we need to. It was nice to have the Son-in-Law person do much of the sawing and climbing. I'm getting better at providing moral support and limited supervision, plus gratuitous advice. We wanted to get the pruning done before today's snow and next week's forecast warmup.

mid-April pear tree in bloom
mid-April pear tree in bloom
Photo by J. Harrington

This morning, while it was still dark and before the snow started locally, I turned on our new LED deck flood lights and saw, for the first time in a number of years, one of our local flying squirrels. Still looking for a decent photo op with those shy folks. Then, when the flying squirrel had scampered, as daylight grew and snowflakes started, we had red squirrels, gold finches, hairy woodpeckers and the ubiquitous chickadees at the feeders.

bird feeder and red squirrel in early March snow storm
bird feeder and red squirrel in early March snow storm
Photo by J. Harrington

I've noticed over the years that the transition between Winter and Spring in Minnesota is usually volatile, full of peaks and valleys, fits and starts, rather than a smooth, gradual progression. It's more like the classic "take two steps forward, one step back" routine. By next week, we could be basking in 50F weather. Six weeks from now we could have the pear tree in blossom, as it was a couple of years ago. But any year in Minnesota,  mid-April is plenty of time to get a bunch more snow. On the bright side, even in Minnesota, after mid-March, snow usually melts quickly. As a bonus, this year we're not faced with runoff and flooding from having 6 or 7 feet of snow to melt, the way my old hometown of Boston is. We just have to survive until the legislature adjourns and hope they don't cause too much damage to our Minnesota while they're in session.

Misreading Housman

By Linda Pastan 
On this first day of spring, snow
covers the fruit trees, mingling improbably   
with the new blossoms like identical twins   
brought up in different hemispheres.   
It is not what Housman meant
when he wrote of the cherry
hung with snow, though he also knew   
how death can mistake the seasons,   
and if he made it all sound pretty,   
that was our misreading
in those high school classrooms
where, drunk on boredom, we had to recite   
his poems. Now the weather is always looming

in the background, trying to become more   
than merely scenery, and though today   
it is telling us something
we don't want to hear, it is all
so unpredictable, so out of control
that we might as well be children again,   
hearing the voices of thunder
like baritone uncles shouting
in the next room as we try to sleep,   
or hearing the silence of snow falling   
soft as a coverlet, even in springtime   
whispering: relax, there is nothing   
you can possibly do about any of this. 


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