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.
Last week we made a trip to Pattison State Park in northwestern Wisconsin, just south of Superior. Our winter snow has melted, we’ve had many days of rainfall, and I knew the waterfalls would be rushing…and we were not disappointed. Big Manitou Falls drops 165 feet, giving it the designation of the highest waterfall in Wisconsin and the fourth highest east of the Rocky Mountains. It is the flowage of the Black River that continues on to Lake Superior.
The falls gets its name from the Ojibwa who called it “Gitchee Manido (or Manitou)” meaning “Falls of the Great Spirit.” The darker root-beer color of the water comes from the tannic acid of decaying leaves and roots of vegetation along the river. Native American Indians were in this area for centuries and these falls were a well-known landmark and gathering place for the Chippewa. Copper mining was done by the Native Americans and later by European-Americans after 1845.
The state park is named for Martin Pattison who was a prominent miner and lumberman. In 1917 he heard of a plan to build a power dam on the Black River that would have eliminated the Big Falls. He purchased 660 acres of land along the river and then donated the land to the state in 1918.
Big Manitou Falls has a thundering roar as it cascades down the gorge. We explored the numerous views near the top, including the large overlook deck that is seen in the upper left hand corner of my photo. Then we found ourselves following the south-side trail that goes through the gorge to the bottom along the river. From here you can look up and truly appreciate the depth of the falls and the power of that volume of water.
For photographers that are reading this, I made images of the falls with varying shutter speeds. The slow shutter images softened the water to a “beautiful and dreamy” flow but I didn’t feel those images truly reflected the power and the turbulence that the river held the day we were there.
Spring in the upper Midwest is a roller coaster ride – sun and warmth one day followed by cold winds and snow the next. We have our ups and downs. But we also know that spring, and eventually summer, will prevail. Until then we surround ourselves with the hopes and colors of springtime.
I bought some tulips at the store recently to help brighten the day. Their pale colors were lovely and they reminded me of the delicateness of spring with a whisper of pale pink throughout the petals. The blooms were tight when I first brought them home, but they slowly opened up. As they got larger their weight caused them to bend forward, sometimes falling one against another. The lightness and support of these two tulips struck me as the definition of softness.
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.
With a lightness in my step and a smile on my face, I stepped out into 48 degrees and sunshine yesterday afternoon for a walk. The sun was warm and it seemed that everyone was outside taking advantage of the lovely weather. My thoughts turned to spring and the hope of flowers and blooming trees. Tulips seem to be one of those “perfect” symbols of springtime, turning their blooms up towards the sun.
This morning I woke up to snow. Sometimes it was coming down quite heavily. My brightness of yesterday and hope for spring was certainly dimmed. But today is still February, and this snow will probably repeat again before the season turns all the way to spring. I shoveled the heavy wet snow, turned my face to the sun that had broken through the clouds, and tried to imagine the green grass and the blooming trees and tulips.