Friday, March 3, 2017

Forcing Spring is not phenology

Each year as the weather warms, there comes a time I start to wonder if I'm seeing things--things not there yet. This year that time was today. I had to go into "the cities" this morning. On the drive home, somewhere in the vicinity of Hugo or Forest Lake, I think I started to see a hint, faint, pale, vaporous, of green at the crowns of many of the aspens (poplars) by the road side. If I had to swear in court, I couldn't testify I'd seen it, but just among us, I did. Not a real budburst yet, I don't think, but signs of life returning, of "greening up" in the countryside, have started already this year at the southern edges of our North Country.

red maple buds, mid-March 2012
red maple buds, mid-March 2012
Photo by J. Harrington

Unlike the topic of whether I'm seeing green or not, there's no question whatsoever in my mind that ducks moving North have joined the larger waterfowl (swans and geese) on the open waters of the Sunrise River pools. I didn't slow the Jeep down enough to make a positive identification on the species, but there were large splashes of white, highlighted by black, paddling around. My suspicions are I saw mergansers, bufflehead and / or goldeneyes.

forced forsythia, late March 2014
forced forsythia, late March 2014
Photo by J. Harrington

Finally, for today, I'm pleased to report the bird houses are now cleaned out. Since a bluebird was reported about 30 miles south of here this week, it's past time that the houses are now ready to await this year's occupants. One other sign of readiness for seasonal changes is that there are finally some forsythia branches in a vase on the dining table, although, to be honest, they're the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of branch bunches. So, now we get to look forward to weather that is actually warm, instead of just warmer, and to watch the outside forsythia bushes eventually burst buds, put out leaves and blossom, unless, of course, a late frost does them in. If early birds get the worms, you'd think life would be less hazardous for early bloomers, wouldn't you?

Forced Bloom


1.

Such pleasure one needs to make for oneself. 
She has snipped the paltry forsythia 
to force the bloom, has cut each stem on 
the slant and sprinkled brown sugar in a vase, 
so the wintered reeds will take their water. 
It hurts her to do this but she does it. 
When are we most ourselves, and when the least? 
Last night, the man in the recessed doorway, 
homeless or searching for something, or sought—
all he needed was one hand and quiet. 
The city around him was one small room. 
He leaned into the dark portal, gray 
shade in a door, a shadow of himself. 
His eyes were closed. His rhythm became him. 
So we have shut our eyes, as dead or as 
other, and held the thought of another 
whose pleasure is need, face over a face ... 

2. 

It hurts her to use her hands, to hold 
a cup or bud or touch a thing. The doctors 
have turned her burning hands in their hands. 
The tests have shown a problem, but no cause, 
a neuropathology of mere touch. 
We have all made love in the dark, small room 
of such need, without shame, to our comfort, 
our compulsion. I know I have. She has. 
We have held or helped each other, sometimes 
watching from the doorway of a warm house 
where candletips of new growth light the walls, 
the city in likeness beyond, our hands 
on the swollen damp branch or bud or cup. 
Sometimes we are most ourselves when we are 
least, or hurt, or lost, face over a face—. 
You have, too. It’s your secret, your delight. 
You smell the wild scent all day on your hand. 


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