Friday, March 31, 2017

Coming attractions: #phenology and poetry

Astronomically, the first one-third of Spring is gone. I was overly optimistic about bud burst on the maple trees this week. That's still to come. According to my copy of Jim Gilbert's Nature Notebook (copyright 1983), April is the month when Minnesotans can expect ice out on most lakes. This year we're way ahead of that for the southern half of the state. Garter snakes should leave hibernation, geese start nesting and wildflowers start blooming. A couple of years ago, I ran a count on the listings at Minnesota Wildflowers. The first week in April has 29 blooming plants listed. By the fourth week, that number has increased to 78. It's also during early April that the average overnight temperature creeps above freezing. That may account for why the types of flies hatching in southeast Minnesota trout streams jumps in April. Look for blue-winged olives, dark hendricksons, early brown stoneflies and little sister sedges during the month. We'll touch on some or all of these phenomena, but much of our attention in April will be focused on the fact that it's National Poetry Month! For April, poetry takes precedence over phenology and politics!

ice out before April, come she will
Photo by J. Harrington

Weir Farm

Not vistas, but a home-sized landscape,
beloved rooms storied, painted, lived.
A farm bought with a painting
and a ten dollar personal check.
And almost from the beginning,
the intention to pass on
what an artist sees, what artists make.
A parcel of land, a vast legacy.

Admire the houses, barns, outbuildings,
and studios, uniformly Venetian red.
Respect the visible sweat work of stones
laid in walls and foundations, terraces and walks.
Admire the sunken garden, the wildflower meadows,
the path through thick woods to the fishing pond.
Walk through the farm envisioned by artists.
Admire the home artists made.

Or you can step from a museum’s polished floor
across a carven, gilded threshold
into the farm reimagined in brushstrokes.
From that wooden bridge over there,
hear those three women’s tinkling laughter?
Over there the other way, see
the black dog panting near the youngish man
lifting stones into a half-built wall?

Step out of the frame again, and be
enveloped in birdsong and dapple.
Feel the welcome of small particulars:
the grove beside that boulder,
the white horse tied in front of that barn.
With eyes made tender, see
those elms, from shadows on the grass
to the highest leaves’ shimmer.

With your friends, lovers, family, stride
across this chromatic broken brushwork.
Sit a minute at the granite picnic table
with the artist’s daughters, dressed in summer white.
You can daub this earth, so lyric, so gentle,
from the limited palette of your own love right now.
Any place you care for can hold an easel.
Everything around you is beautiful plein air.


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