spring


I was contacted by a neighbor saying they had pink lady’s slippers blooming in their yard; oh, what a wonderful invitation!  Semi-hidden amidst some tall grasses,  she showed me multiple clumps of these lovely flowers.  Pink lady’s slippers are part of the orchid family, and are about 6 to 10 inches tall.  They are delicate and stand tall on a single leafless stem.  Like other ephemerals they bloom for only a few short days before the deciduous trees form their full canopy of leaves blocking sunlight to the ground.  I  sat on the ground and marveled at these beauties, thankful that I could enjoy them at their peak.

A week ago there was a lovely full moonrise.  I stood by the lake and waited for the moon to clear the hill and the trees on the opposite shoreline.  The wind slowly settled down, and there was a lovely quiet that wrapped around me.  The waves calmed and the lake became still.  Then the moon appeared – large and pearl colored, and as it rose it seemed that the tops of the trees were supporting it and offering it up to the night sky.  I watched and then my ears picked up the haunting call of a loon at the other end of the lake.  It all seemed a perfect rite of spring, and I savored this respite from the many worries of the world right now.

Springtime – a season of change, a season of hope, and a season of color.  I’ve always looked forward to spring and its warmth and beauty.  In Minnesota spring seems to condense and then open up all in a small time period.  It’s as if you can literally watch the grass become green and the leaves pop out from the buds on the trees.  Everything draws deep into the color palettes as Mother Nature wakes up from winter.  One of my favorite flowers are tulips with all their styles and hues, colors and textures.  They are the precursor to the abundance of late spring and summer and all the rich colors that follow.  On a dreary day they can be the one bright spot in the garden.  And on a sunny day they glow as their colors are set off by the warmth and brilliance of the sun.

As we are all social distancing and staying at home, our world is dominated by our views looking out.  Many of us have become observers of the transition of seasons, the angle of the sun coming through our windows, and our neighbors that pass by walking their dogs.  It’s good to look out to recognize and confirm that winter moves into spring, the sun continues to rise, and our neighbors are still in our neighborhood.  That’s what gives us a sense of normalcy in these uncertain times.

This photo takes a different approach and looks inside from the outside.  The sunlight streams through the window, lighting the vase amidst the darkness behind it.  Shadows are created across the curtain by the window frame.  The lace is delicate and beautiful, set off against the coarse texture of the wall.  Perhaps our inside worlds are just as beautiful now as the outside world, if we take a moment to observe and appreciate where we are at this moment and what surrounds us.

Today is Easter – a day filled with promise, hope, and spring.  Yet this year is not like other years.  Many of us are celebrating the day without friends and family and without the many traditions that we have come to associate with Easter.

And usually Mother Nature is on board too, but that’s not the case in Minnesota today.  I’m looking out the window at snow coming down and collecting on the grass and trees.  When the temperature was 60 degrees yesterday I thought the 3-6 inches of predicted snow was wrong, but that just may hold true.  Somewhere there are lovely small pasque flowers that are keeping their blossoms closed to protect themselves from the snow.  They too know what’s necessary for survival.  And yet I know spring will turn the corner, and these flowers will open up again and be thankful for the moisture and the sun.  There is promise and hope.

 

The last few weeks have brought a world of differences to many of us — a new physical view from the inside looking out; a new vocabulary that includes medical terms of pandemics, viruses, curves, ventilators, and COVID-19; an appreciation for things that previously we’d taken for granted; and a feeling that the world’s turned upside down.  With the barrage of news and seemingly constant updates it’s hard to look too far forward.  Like many, I’m trying to take things one day at a time.  Today the sun is shining and there are signs of spring outside my windows.  The birds are migrating back into our area and their calling hangs in the air.  There are people walking in the neighborhood and soaking up the sun’s warmth.  There’s a young girl that’s riding her small bike next to her dad who is running; they’re chatting and singing as they go by.  Sometime ahead the tulips will be blooming here in Minnesota.  Somewhere ahead, the struggling and the uncertainty we’re dealing with now will be behind us.  Somewhere ahead I’m hoping we will have learned lessons from this time; perhaps we’ll appreciate the beauty all around us – in nature, in family, and the people we interact with.  And somewhere ahead I’m hoping our world will no longer seem to be upside down, but instead will be more kind.

Spring has arrived in the northwoods of Wisconsin.  Driving along a county road we saw (and avoided) many turtles in the road and beside it.   We also saw the lupine blooming in certain areas.  It’s low to the ground and the light needs to be from the right angle to see it’s lovely colors, otherwise it blends in with the grass, dirt and sand.  We rounded a corner and I admired a large patch of lupines, noting that I needed to return to photograph it.  As I was studying the flowers I looked beyond them and saw something looking back at me.  On the edge of the woods, blending in with the shadows, was a black bear.  He looked at me and then ambled back into the woods.  Needless to say, when I returned the next day to photograph the lovely flowers I was very aware of my surroundings.  A slight rustle in the woods and I stopped to see who or what it was.  This time it wasn’t my friend the bear, but it was only a squirrel.

It had been a windy and cloudy day, but as the evening wore on the wind began to die down.  We were fishing as the air became still.  Eagles were flying overhead and the crappies were biting.  The dark clouds were still above but the sun moved below them lighting up the opposite shore.  The leaves were full on some of the trees and yet others had only begun to leaf out, filtering the sunlight as it came through the trees.  The low light and the calmness created a beautiful reflection of the end of a spring (finally!) day.

As we were exploring the Namekagon Wildlife Barrens in northwestern Wisconsin we saw many bluebird houses distributed throughout the area.  Numerous agencies and individuals have worked hard to be sure the birds have access to good nesting areas.  At one road junction we stopped and watched this tree swallow as it flitted in and out of the house, flying to the trees nearby, then coming back to the house.  He was accompanied by a female which came and went many times too.  What a delight to let time stand still and watch their activities and absorb this little bit of spring!

We were exploring at the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area this past weekend.  Located in Burnett County in northwestern Wisconsin, this is a globally rare landscape of pine and oak with a very sandy soil.  It’s quite startling to see the Barrens after driving miles through forested land; all of a sudden the sky opens up and the vista is wide with rolling hills and a prairie-like view.  The ground near the road was black where there had been a prescribed burn the day before, and the air had a pronounced smell of smoke.  After about 20 minutes, we saw smoke to the east and found they were doing some spot fires to finish what had been started the day before.  I’m excited to return to the area in the next week or so — the grass will be turning green with our recent rains, and soon the wildflowers will sprout and bloom.

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