Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Time for pussy willows, catkins and colors #phenology

The sun is shining in a blue, cloudless sky. National Weather Service informs us that frost has left the ground in several Minnesota locations. At nearby Saint Paul, frost remains from 14" to 4" below the surface. The difference between Chanhassen (no frost) and St. Paul rather surprises me. St. Paul is only about 5 to10 miles North of Chanhassen. Other than that, and some unusually early ice-out patterns, the frost report seems to be a sign that Spring is progressing through a relatively smooth South to North transition this year. In case you're interested, here's one way to measure frost depth.

mid-March, catkin time
mid-March, catkin time
Photo by J. Harrington

Have you seen any pussy willow catkins yet this Spring? How about any snakes that have come out of hibernation [brumation]? It's the time of year to look for increasing activity and growth in local plants and animals, including humans. The daily dog walks get longer in Spring than during Winter's colder temperatures. Soon, I'll be spending time sitting outside in a sunny, sheltered spot watching the neighborhood wake up and grow. The Better Half reported hearing sandhill cranes yesterday or the day before, but still we've only enjoyed that brief transitory glimpse last week. We've definitely reached the time of year when those who practice Zen would have each of us spend 20 minutes a day sitting in nature, unless we're too busy; then, we should spend an hour. I have to frequently remind myself of that as, all too often, my focus shifts to anticipating future pleasures instead of enjoying what I have now.  In very different ways, both the ground and I need to "chill out." How about you?

stop, sit, watch the colors return
stop, sit, watch the colors return
Photo by J. Harrington

I have, from time to time, shared some thoughts and feelings about degrees of feeling at home along the Massachusetts coast compared to living in Minnesota. As, this week, I finished reading Joan Didion's South And West, I was very pleased to note her very last paragraph. Didion was born in California and now lives in New York. Of California she writes:
Part of it is what looks right to the eye, sounds right to the ear. I am at home in the West. The hills of the coastal ranges look "right" to me, the particular flat expanse of the Central Valley comforts my eye. The place names have the ring of real places to me. I can pronounce the names of the rivers, and recognize the common trees and snakes. I am easy here in a way I am not easy in other places.
That says much about how I feel about coastal Massachusetts and much of the rest of New England. I'm still coming to feel that way about Minnesota. Perhaps "easy" is a birthright, imprinted during our youngest years? Something to explore some other time.

Emily Dickinson (1830–86).  Complete Poems.  1924.

Part Two: Nature

LXXXV

A LIGHT exists in spring
  Not present on the year
At any other period.
  When March is scarcely here
  
A color stands abroad        5
  On solitary hills
That silence cannot overtake,
  But human nature feels.
  
It waits upon the lawn;
  It shows the furthest tree        10
Upon the furthest slope we know;
  It almost speaks to me.
  
Then, as horizons step,
  Or noons report away,
Without the formula of sound,        15
  It passes, and we stay:
  
A quality of loss
  Affecting our content,
As trade had suddenly encroached
  Upon a sacrament.        20


********************************************
Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.