It’s the shortest season here in the North. We’ve had snow and cold, freeze warnings in the mornings, and then it’s spring. All around plants, birds, animals are emerging. The ground is littered with leaves, pine needles, twigs, and branches. The trees are budded so there is no shade over the garden. But if you get down to ground level and look closely there are signs of spring. The trillium are up above the dead leaves and some of the other wildflowers are poking their shoots and leaves up. These ferns are about eight inches tall now but they will be hip height in a matter of a week. The fernheads are wrapped tightly in a ball but they will unfurl and spread their own shade over the ground below. And quickly the temperatures will rise, the humidity will increase, the lightning will crack and the thunder will roll, and spring will have passed to summer.
The darkness of winter is giving way to the lightness of spring. The warmer temperatures have brought new sprouts and new leaves. Everywhere there’s an undercurrent of blossoming and coming forth. The birds are back and singing with glee, the grasses are greening and growing, and the plants that were hidden throughout the winter are reemerging above ground. The serviceberry trees in the yard are blossoming and bringing their lightness to our world. They are delicate and small but their brightness is welcome. We watched a recent light rainfall cause each blossom to dip down as the rain droplets touched it, reminding me of a piano being tenderly played — pulling each note’s sound out with the light touch of fingers.
We’ve enjoyed days of blue sky and sunshine. Our temperatures have soared into the 40s and 50s and we were so very optimistic for spring. Even the grass was showing, and snow was only found in small mounds on protected north sides.
And then it snowed yesterday. Spring was delayed another time. Today I found these trees standing tall on a hill in our monotone winter landscape, their branches still bare but triumphant. They know that spring will come. The grass beneath their trunks will be green again. The sky above their outstretched arms will be a brilliant shade of blue. And their branches will burst out with a full coverage of green leaves. Not today, but soon.
Although the lake had some ice forming a few weeks ago, the unseasonably warm stretch with temps in the 60s and 70s has kept the lake open. And with that there’s been a steady “parade” of waterfowl on the lake. The grebes, or helldivers, have been plentiful and there has even been a passing pair of loons. The Canada geese are honking loudly as they fly past and then skid on the lake surface to land; their flocks seem to be getting larger as they’re preparing to migrate south in their signature V formation.
And there have been an unusually large number of hooded mergansers swimming in the lake. I have counted up to 50 in one area, taking their turns at diving down for small fish and other food. This evening as the sun was setting, the pink color of the sky reflected onto the lake surface as the last gasp of sunlight hit the distant shore. Soon our lakes will freeze over and all the waterfowl will have left the northern areas and gone south in search of open water.
Fall seems to have quickly passed over us. The vibrant colors peaked and the leaves fell and blanketed the ground and hillsides. The temperatures dipped below freezing and already the first snowfall arrived with its big fluffy flakes.
Images like this one help me to remember the beauty that we enjoyed for what seemed such a short time this year — the deep golds and yellows, the burgundys and browns of the oak trees, and the blue of the sky with the billowing clouds. I can look at this scene and remember the warmth of the sun and the smell of fall.
Now the trees are bare, preserving their resources for the cold winter months ahead. The colorful leaves that fell to the ground are brown and crunch and crinkle underfoot. And soon our landscapes will become white with snow as winter settles in.