Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sprang, sprung, Spring?

This coming Wednesday is the start of meteorological Spring. Walking the dog this morning, the wind chill was minus 2℉. Ah, Minnesota! At least daytime highs are forecast to get above freezing all next week.

red-winged blackbird in cattail marsh
red-winged blackbird in cattail marsh
Photo by J. Harrington

So far this year there's been no sign of red-winged blackbirds arriving locally, but it's about the time of year when we can start looking for them. (Well, we can look year round but it's more likely to be productive now.) Our prematurely warm days and return to freezing nights should have local sap flowing now. I had been unaware of the different physiological structures various trees create to enable sap and water to flow. One of my Christmas present books, The Forest Unseen, describes at length variations in xylem cells in maple and hickory trees. I'm pretty sure my formal education lacked anything nearly as interesting. My informal education, on the other hand, was more empirical and much more interesting, but still didn't encounter xylem. Then again, I somehow missed, although it's been right in front of me for years, the fact that literary convention does not capitalize bird's names, but ornithological convention does. I picked up that distinction documented in the preface to Bernd Heinrich's Mind of the Raven. (For the record, I found the publisher's web site too annoying to link to.) So, my adult education, life-long learning journey continues to provide me with answers to questions I lacked sense to ask. Isn't that how it's supposed to work?

I continue to believe that Minnesota's Winters are about one month too long. Plus, Spring is usually the season that my adopted home state does least well. The pattern is often cold, cold, cold, cold, hot!, with minimal seasonal warming progression. We'll see if climate change and global warming modify that cycle. Now I think it's time for me to go play Carly Simon singing Anticipation as I look forward to Spring while trying to enjoy these good old days.

The Enkindled Spring


This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration 
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.


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