Like the flip of a switch, spring blew into the Twin Cities this past week.  Last Monday, May 1st, brought us snow flurries in abundance – it looked and felt more like November than May.  But as the week wore on, the temperatures rebounded, the sun appeared, and the leaves started opening.  The tulips and daffodils became riots of color, the crabapple trees were awash in pinks and whites, and the once-barren, brown grass became green again.  This weekend found people outside – gardening, walking, running, biking, having parties on their patios and decks – anything to soak up the warmth and the return of spring.

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winter-trees-on-the-hill-7d15809_staatsThe temperature dropped and winter came back to Minnesota during the past mid-week.  The blue skies and hope of spring were delayed and side tracked by a fast-moving front that dropped snow and brought back winter’s cold winds.  The gray sky that accompanied this snow seemed gloomier than usual, perhaps because of the desire for spring.  But as I wandered the hills, listening to the rattling of the oak leaves in the wind, I saw a brief opening in the clouds – just long enough for a shaft of light to come through and give hope again for an eventual departure of winter.

snow-dusted-hydrangea_staats-15369Last weekend’s snow disappeared with the rain that followed for a few days.  Once again our ground was visible, and winter seemed far away.   But the snow started falling again last night, and by this morning we had six inches of fluffy white snow on the ground and the trees.  There was no wind, so the snow stayed where it fell, gracing the branches and trees.  This delicate hydrangea bloom was a recipient of the dusting, and it seemed to sparkle with the flakes scattered over its blossoms.  The temperatures have been below freezing the last few days and the lakes are icing over.  This afternoon I saw a large skein of Canada geese heading southward.  They were much higher in the air today as they continued past their usual stops in our area, knowing that they must continue further south to find open water.  And there was a noticeable stillness in the air tonight; a nearly full moon shone down as the snow glistened in its light absorbing the sounds as we quickly move into the winter season.

Yellow of summer 13640_StaatsToday we are on the cusp of the last month of our meteorological summer.  As I’m getting ready to turn the page of the calendar to August, it’s not something I want to do, but yet it is reality.  These yellows of summer will soon be fading, much as our daylight hours are already diminishing.  Yet, I remind myself that change is good and often we must go through change to get to something better.  Without the cold and snow of winter, we would not have the beautiful forests and trees that grace our state.  Ten years ago I moved to Minnesota – truly a huge change after living 30 years in Washington state.  I am amazed at the things I’ve seen and learned, and humbled by the changes in my life.  I’ve learned that a mid-west winter can be survived (and embraced) with temperatures that remain below zero; that frozen lakes can be driven on; that hockey can be played on those same frozen lakes; that there are small little “houses” that spring up on those frozen lakes where people ice fish; that a horizon line that goes off into the distance as far as I can see holds immense beauty and openness; that thunderstorms can be as beautiful as they are sometimes destructive; and that the colors of autumn are intense and beautiful, yet they can’t be timed to the calendar each year.  But the biggest thing I’ve learned is that life continues and we adjust – we can chose to adapt and embrace those changes and live our lives fully.  My life has become bigger with all those changes and new experiences, and I know that there will be more in the future ahead, just like the inevitable change in the seasons.

Winter waves Cannon Lake 12691_StaatsWe made a day trip south to Faribault Minnesota yesterday.  The day dawned with a dusting of snow, and a front moving through, prompting strong northerly winds up to 45 mph.  Not a problem for driving south….As we were following along the southern shore of Cannon Lake, I was amazed at the whitecaps rolling across the water.  I have never seen that much wind blowing over the open water.  But then my eye caught the southern shoreline where the wind-blown waves were crashing.  Because of the cold temperatures, the water was freezing along the trees and bushes.  Everything was coated in ice, and even some of the icicles were leaning towards the south because of the incessant winds.  As cold and windy as yesterday was, the pendulum of spring swung the other way today and we enjoyed sunshine and 60’s, with no signs of ice.

Dusting on Como Golf Course 12634_StaatsSpring is not known for its consistency.  After tulips had broken through the ground, ice has been off the lakes, and everyone’s thoughts were turning to warmer temperatures, we got a slap of snow.  The temperatures dropped, the winds picked up, and winter came sweeping back into Minnesota.  I headed out before dawn to the Como Golf Course.  The white dusting left some wonderful patterns and allowed the shapes of the trees to stand out in the landscape.  It was still dark enough that the street lights around the lake were lit and glowed a beautiful golden yellow to contrast with the white landscape.  And on the green, the red flag fluttered in defiance of the winter weather.  Undettered, spring will try again this week to get its foothold on our landscape.

Landscape from above PS2417StaatsI made a quick trip to the Kansas City area this weekend.  A one-way flight on Friday late afternoon took me 450 miles south of Minnesota.  The sunset was stunning and the landscape below is always interesting.  A pattern of fields and rivers, valleys and hills, and eventually roads with car lights that dot the lines from horizon to horizon.  But what was more noticeable to me this time, was the difference in the seasons.  Leaving Minnesota, our grass is brown and our lakes still have some ice on them.  Snow is still visible in protected areas.  But once I was in Kansas City I realized what a difference 450 miles makes in the seasons.  The magnolia trees were in bloom, the bright yellow of the forsythia was glowing, and daffodils were showing their golden faces.  Even the grass was no longer brown, and fields of winter wheat were a beautiful green.  The drive home made the seasonal difference even more noticeable.  Throughout northern Iowa and southern Minnesota grasses in the fields were visibly packed down from the weight of the recently melted snow, and there was a demarcation line that the red-winged blackbirds had not crossed yet in their journey to the north.  Green grass will take-over in Minnesota, and flowers will bloom, and the blackbirds will be in our neighborhood, but nature hasn’t stretched her warm hands this far north yet.