Friday, March 24, 2017

Bluebird weather? #phenology

Early this morning, the weather was Spring-soft: damp, mildly foggy, mild temperatures and no wind to speak of (usually goes with fog). It brought a promise of good things to come. But, after all, this is Minnesota where, even in times of global warming, an early April morning can look like this.

Minnesota Spring (sometimes)
Minnesota Spring (sometimes)
Photo by J. Harrington

During the past few days, I've come down with a severe case of bluebird envy. Reports on Twitter from Belwin Conservancy are that male bluebirds arrived about three weeks ago and females within the past day or so. We're about 30 miles or so North of Belwin's location and we've had bluebirds nesting in our box about every year since we put it up. So far this year, nada! The good folks at eBird have a cool Occurrence Map that intimates "my" bluebirds should be here momentarily. I suppose, if I anticipated a major snow storm in the near future, I might be hesitant to prematurely head North myself. I don't seem to have any photos of backyard bluebirds in residence before early May, so, as usual, I'm probably being impatient.

early May, bluebird weather
early May, bluebird weather
Photo by J. Harrington

Have you ever read Aldo Leopold's wonderful A Sand County Almanac? Do you remember the section in July titled Great Possessions? In it, Leopold recounts listening to the sequence of bird songs, starting at 3:35 am with a field sparrow and continuing through sunrise with a growing mixed chorus. [If you've never read Sand County, you really should. If you've never been out at false dawn to listen to the world awaken, you should add that to your bucket list and do it sooner than later.]

I was reminded of Great Possessions while reading the final poem in Alice Oswald's Falling Awake. TITHONUS, 46 MINUTES IN THE LIFE OF THE DAWN, translates a Greek myth and tragedy into poetically human terms and time. If you enjoy poetry that remarkably captures a spirit of place and time, see if you can find some of Oswald's pieces. I think you'll really enjoy them. I have.



A Short Story of Falling


By Alice Oswald


It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again

it is the secret of a summer shower
to steal the light and hide it in a flower

and every flower a tiny tributary
that from the ground flows green and momentary

is one of water's wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

if only I a passerby could pass
as clear as water through a plume of grass

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip
turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

then I might know like water how to balance
the weight of hope against the light of patience

water which is so raw so earthy-strong
and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

drawn under gravity towards my tongue
to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

which is the story of the falling rain
that rises to the light and falls again


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