Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Phenology's March into North Country's Spring

When Bob Dylan wrote Girl from the North Country, with the lines
Please see if she’s wearing a coat so warm
To keep her from the howlin’ winds
I bet he wasn't thinking of March's "howlin' winds" coming up to Minnesota from the south, shaking branches, scouring Winter-over leaves from oak trees and sending already fallen leaves scurrying to the North Country. And, since we all know about March coming in like a lion and out like a lamb, or vice versa, are there any old folk sayings about March lions released toward mid-month? I suppose a loose interpretation could include Julius Caesar's mid-March Ides warning.

marsh marigolds, next month?
marsh marigolds, next month?
Photo by J. Harrington

There should be quite a few signs of Spring arriving this month, not counting the greening that occurs around the 17th for St. Patrick's Day. Here's a list of arrivals to watch for. I'm surprised and a little disappointed that emerging skunk cabbage isn't listed. The dates on the list are for a site about 25 miles south of our property. A year or two ago we were surprised at the lag in dates between here and William O'Brien State Park for skunk cabbage and marsh marigold emergence and growth. If Spring moves North about 15 miles a day, what should have been a two or three day lag took more than a week. Proof that nature is organic and not mechanical?

grass fire season, when?
grass fire season, when?
Photo by J. Harrington

If you ever watched the Lord of the Rings movie, The Two Towers,and saw the march of the Ents, you'd promptly recognize the movements in the tops of our trees today. If their tap roots didn't extend so deep, they too would be marching northward, driven by the winds. Those same winds are drying the dead grasses and evaporating the soil moisture. Soon it will be grass fire season, something else to watch for as warmer, drier weather prevails.

As When Drought Imagines Fire 



Loot my point of view,
                                               hove my heart
                free from its hived booth
though I know your smoke,
                                            its black blossom,
is a substance I’ll never become:
                              colors
              of plaster and grass I’ve prepped
flawlessly, rivers I’ve whittled thin.

It’s a personal matter to me, the wind.
But let it be our cathedral feeling:
                                                              a sculpture
of ash
                               dragging its robe over
the hills because of us,
                                             because of me.
Yellow is hurried,
                              but red moves like a swarm
               through toothpick homes,
               pans over roofs,
                             where the ethos we child
                                             from the ground
will blacken to ruin.
                                                           Let’s glory
              this roughened nap
of landscape,
                           this parched Arcadia,
with one nude-struck match and a breeze.



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