Monday, March 13, 2017

Spring tales and springtails #phenology

It's about this time each year that I drag out the last line of Shelley's Ode to the West Wind,
"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?" Then, in response, I try to remember to read the Chippewa legend about the conversation between Peboan, the Spirit of Winter and Seegwun, the Spirit of Spring. The conversation continues for awhile, taking turns speaking back and forth. This year seems to be one where that conversation could feel interminable, but we know that, eventually, Peboan's head will begin to droop in the warm sunshine and he will nap for months.Looking at some of the April snowstorm photos of years past, we should all wish Peboan a very peaceful nap this year.

Spring chick-a-dee
Spring chick-a-dee
Photo by J. Harrington

Two Christmases ago Santa's Book Elves left me a copy of Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold. I rediscovered it this morning as I was straightening out some of the stacks of books in the study. I had forgotten that the last three poems are a perfect fit for this time of year and that there's a nice phenology / natural history description that accompanies the poems. To say "Good-bye Winter, Hello, Spring," there's
  • Chickadee's Song (have you heard a fee-bee yet?);

  • The Whole World Is Melting (featuring SPRINGtails); and,

  • Triolet for Skunk Cabbage

skunk cabbage and ???, late March 2016
skunk cabbage and ???, late March 2016
Photo by J. Harrington

Winter is a season I love to look back on. Tales, ...tails, and signs of Spring provide lots to enjoy, look forward to, and hope for. This week alone brings us the Ides of March (would be dictators beware!) and Saint Patrick's Day. One week from today is Spring Equinox. That gives us plenty of time to decide how we should celebrate another season of "being busy being born."

Last Snow


By Heid E. Erdrich


Dumped wet and momentary on a dull ground
that’s been clear but clearly sleeping, for days.
Last snow melts as it falls, piles up slush, runs in first light
making a music in the streets we wish we could keep.
Last snow. That’s what we’ll think for weeks to come.
Close sun sets up a glare that smarts like a good cry.
We could head north and north and never let this season go.
Stubborn beast, the body reads the past in the change of light,
knows the blow of grief in the time of trees’ tight-fisted leaves.
Stubborn calendar of bone. Last snow. Now it must always be so.


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