Friday, February 3, 2017

Seasons, bioregions, and #phenology

There's a recent report from the National Phenology Network that Spring is arriving about 20 days early in the Southeastern US. A quick search of the internets didn't reveal any obvious resource on the role of seasons in determining bioregions. I suppose in an era of climate change that means one less set of indices to be modified, but I'm not satisfied with the non-answer I've found so far. Just because Spring is arriving way early several hundred miles from here doesn't mean it will necessarily get to our North Country any earlier, but that's going to be something to watch for.

wet Spring, back yard Canada geese
wet Spring, back yard Canada geese
Photo by J. Harrington

One of the early signs of Spring that I usually notice is the return of the Canada geese. In A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold writes that "The Geese Return" in March. His cabin was a bit south of where we live. That may explain why, since we've lived near the Carlos Avery Sunrise River pools, I usually look for geese to arrive about the middle of that month. If we were going to have a Spring that's six weeks early measured by the arrival of geese, not leaf out, I would expect the arrival to occur momentarily. I'll take a chance on treading on thin ice here and write "it ain't gonna happen."

female Cardinal in snow
female Cardinal in snow
Photo by J. Harrington

Cardinals, on the other hand, have again been brightening our Winter days. This morning both a male and a female were at the front feeder, he on the feeder, she on the ground. It doesn't take much of a bright red flame to really warm up a 14℉, bright, sunny morning. There seem to have been more downy and hairy woodpeckers than usual at the suet this morning and yesterday. I'm not sure if it's due to this really cold snap or not.

Not long ago, when my understanding of despair was more limited, I used to be able to read the following poem as if it were only of hypothetical relevance. Not any more.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

~ Mary Oliver

(If you would like to hear the poet read her poem, follow the linked title)

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