Sunday, February 19, 2012


One of the ways you can tell the locals from the outsiders around here is by what they call a stand of trees. Woods or woodlands, forest, grove and copse are all outsider words. Timber is what most of the locals say, and see. Timber can be a resource or an obstacle, depending on the use being made of the land. Timber is always practical — function before beauty.

That does not mean that the locals fail to appreciate the woods. I bought a cord of hedge from a neighbor last year. As we began stacking it he said, "Don't you just love trees?" He generally cuts hedge and locust, sometimes helping other farmers clear pasture. One year the ricks of wood looked so beautiful he took pictures. Later that winter, straight rows of cords turned into six-foot snowdrifts. He staggers the rows now, not as pretty but more accessible in bad weather.

The original forest was mainly oak and hickory. My scrubby second-growth woods are a riot of species, some of them considered nuisances. I'm okay with that. I do love trees.

On bright winter days shagbark hickory stands against the sky like the old horned forest lord. Stag sheds his antlers in the wood, making ready for new growth.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Warm Snow

The first snowfall of more than an inch came on February 13 this year, mostly before dawn. A fluffy blanket was on the ground by daylight. It kept coming down in the morning like mist, fine and moist. The rabbits and deer tucked up in the woods for the duration. Birds left tracks everywhere. Other than that, the snow was pristine before I walked in it, my feet touching earth, leaving deep prints.

Beside the dormant garden, echinacea seeds turned into snowballs.
My daughter photographed them among bramble canes.

She sent them to a friend with this message:
"Echinacea seed heads in snow, black raspberry canes glow, cedar and elm trunks shelter and lean. Slowly, surely, stubbornly Spring stirs. This is what I see, this is what I know of Love, Grace and Joy."

This morning the fog came down for a while, but the snow is already shrinking. It will sink into the soil when the sun comes out.
Spring will not be denied.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Late Winter

Winter is late this year. The snowdrops have decided it's not coming. A snowy owl irruption reached as far south as Missouri. A whooping crane family went north from the Cheyenne Bottoms a month early. The geese are flying east and west and all agley.

Late winter is my favorite time of year. By the middle of February — sooner this year — the snowdrops are in bloom. If you peek under the mulch and leaves along the paths, you will see crocus and daffodils putting up shoots. Forsythia has buds along its branches. Hellebores send up new foliage. Last week I spent a couple of afternoons outside in the sun. One little bee came hunting the snowdrops, a single veil-winged melissa scouting the earliest pollen for her queen.

Tolkien called this the season of Stirring. Winter has held off for so long now that it will mingle with spring. Last weekend a half-inch snowfall clung to the branches until the morning sun melted it away. Today the sun is shining in defiance of predictions, but a cold front is on the way. The first real snow may fall by Monday.

The days are lengthening, and the bees are working no matter what. Somewhere the mysterious cave of the Great Mother hums with priestesses feeding honey to a newborn god.