Field Notes: Mid-April

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The skunk cabbage declares spring!

When spring begins, I don’t want to be anywhere else but home. Recently I’ve been traveling—little trips, nothing exotic, mostly to more urban places: Atlanta, Philadelphia, NYC, Long Island—and each time I leave I can’t wait to get back, and I worry I will miss something. How is it that each spring is still so exciting, even when we know exactly what will happen? Maybe because it is that amazing! Everything that has died returns, and starts anew. What could be more magical than that? Don’t we wish we had that amazing capability as well?

Although the trails are caked with layers of last year’s dry leaves, there are juicy bits of green that catch your eye immediately. Around Louisa Pond there are clumps of swamp grass that line the edges of the water. They are a spray of old straw with a heart of light green coming out of the center. By the river there is a canopy of tulip poplars, maples and oaks that towers over a forest of spicebushes, and as the spicebushes bud they turn into an amazing chartreuse haze that I always look forward to. The buds are like tiny pom poms. The red haze of the maple buds are filled with promise. I anticipate all of these details. Knowing where to look and what to look for actually makes it more exciting.

The trout lilies are blooming—with their spotted leaves and bright yellow flowers—along with  violets, dandelions, coltsfoot, muscaria, scilla siberica, hepatica, and forsythia, to name a few. I saw a large bumblebee struggling to find a flower, skittering around, wings still not strong enough to lift its large fuzzy body until it crawled upon a purple dead nettle and found a flower to drink from. The purple dead nettles are happy in the edges of the garden, and I leave them for this reason: to feed the bees. The bittercress are also multiplying amongst the strawberries, their delicate white florets in a rosette of green leaves. The sheep’s sorrel also remains, it’s roots resilient and unstoppable, though I’ve managed to hustle them mostly out of the garden. In the swampy wetlands the bright green trumpet of the skunk cabbage pushes up everywhere. Even though soft and tender and green, all of these plants force themselves up through layers of dead leaves and tossed gravel. Their strength amazes me.

If you look closely at the soil it begins to move with bugs: little pill bugs crawl everywhere, ants move soil, and below that worms dig tunnels. In the air the mayflies have begun their incessant and irritating ritual of hovering around your head and dive-bombing your eyes and nose as you work or walk. We know they will die in two weeks, but still they cause us to wave constantly at imaginary friends, making one look crazy to the distant observer.

Movement is everywhere! I have seen four snakes already, and that is a true sign of warming temperatures. A lithe garden snake on a path, a large black rat snake sunning in leaves by a stream, and two water snakes. One of which, fatly coiled in a figure eight, was sitting in a trail that was streaming over with water. We carefully circumnavigated it. The last water snake lives by our pond and always slithers away before we can see it. Turtles have been sunning on the edges of the pond, also quick as a bullet into the water when we approach, but you can spot their shiny shells from a distance. The fish are also there, forming ripples when they see you, swimming away into the deep.

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6 thoughts on “Field Notes: Mid-April”

  1. Julia;
    Our forest canopy is just beginning to bud out; however the understory has begun to flower — pussy willows and small maples. The floor exhibits some emerging trout lilies and invasive garlic mustard. Haven’t hit truly swampy bits yet where I know enormous swathes of skunk cabbage and fiddlehead ferns live. The biggest crop I saw yesterday at the play area of the Nature Reserve was the pregnant moms with their wee ones

  2. gorgeous as always. You make me want to go outside and really look!

    On Sat, Apr 15, 2017 at 9:08 AM, The Preserved Life wrote:

    > Julia Sforza posted: ” When spring begins, I don’t want to be anywhere > else but home. Recently I’ve been traveling—little trips, nothing exotic, > mostly to more urban places: Atlanta, Philadelphia, NYC, Long Island—and > each time I leave I can’t wait to get back, and I worry I ” >

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