Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 29: Snow beasts

While we haven't had a real snowfall in weeks, the woods and shaded corners of our lawns harbor snow beasts--big lumps of unmelted snow that have lingered on through these dry but still-cold days. These amorphous white blobs poise in stark contrast to the surrounding brown and grey landscape. An especially large, polar bear-ish lump of snow along the roadside seemed a natural embodiment of winter's last hold on us--almost gone, but with with a sense of foreboding in its lurking, predatory presence.

Tomorrow the prediction is for 100% chance of snow, our first "real" winter storm in at least a month. For a few days at least, these remnant patches will unify into one mass, winter expanding again over the neighborhood like a living glacier. But when temperatures rise again, melting the plowed embankments and shoveled heaps, the snow beasts will once again emerge as individual forms... before eventually melting away again back into the landscape.

Thinking glacial thoughts,
roadside snow remnant holds fast
for the coming storm.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 28: White wings

Gulls were unusually active around my office this afternoon. We're only a mile from the ocean, so seeing a gull is an everyday occurrence. But we don't often get quite the visitation we had today. Every time I glanced out the window I saw a flash of white wings dipping over the trees. Gulls soared over the dam. At one point, I was startled by the tiny image of a gull flying past, its reflection caught in a photograph on my director's desk. During a conversation with a co-worker, I had to consciously stop looking away from him every time a gull came into my peripheral vision. It was a little bit like seeing stars, those brief glimpses of quickly moving white birds throughout the day.

There's a dairy farm near Route One in Rockport over which a flock of gulls can regularly be found swarming. It can sometimes look like a scene from "The Birds." I've always assumed they were finding things to eat amid the spilled feed and cow droppings. While our gulls today weren't quite that numerous, I do wonder what they were attracted to. Was our neighbor tossing out bread again? Was something interesting (for a gull, that would translate to "food-producing") happening in the open water of the river out back? Or were they just gracing us with their presence?

Gull visitation--
a blessing of white feathers
or a distraction?

Monday, February 27, 2012

February 27: Finch in the driveway

On the way to the local market I pass a slightly run-down house. There's often a big dog chained outside; its droppings litter the lawn. The siding, which was not a pretty color to begin with, is worn and faded. Porch railings need mending, and random pieces of plywood and toys lie about the yard. The house wears a casual, unkempt air--thoroughly lived-in but perhaps not especially cared for. It reminds me a little of some places we lived when I was a child, a home typical of those who are paying more attention to getting by than keeping their yard picked up or painting trim.

I was walking by this house, looking straight ahead up the street, when a small, quick movement caught my eye. I looked over, half-expecting to see a piece of wind-blown trash skitter across the short driveway. But instead, a little house finch pecked amid the gravel, a male bird with brown streaks and a bright raspberry-colored head. I don't know what he was after down there, but for a few moments, he added an understated note of true beauty to that bleak yard.

I hope someone there
noticed the pink-headed finch
gracing their driveway.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

February 26: Budding

A sparkling day, the river running high and bright out back as the sun relaxes into the west. I ran into some neighbors at the corner market and we shared relief that this has thus far been an "easy" winter, without the constant snow-shoveling of last winter. We both have short driveways that defy being plowed--nowhere else to put our cars or for the plow to push the excess snow. So shoveling is always at least a two-part, back-aching process: once to get out of the driveway in the morning, and at least once more to get back into the driveway in the evening after the street plow has banked several feet of snow across it. Don't miss that at all.

My neighbors have a bigger yard than I do and get more sun. They tell me their crocuses are already starting to poke up little green leaf spikes. And they mentioned their forsythia is starting to bud. So on the walk back from the market, I clipped a few forsythia sprigs from another neighbor's bush (she doesn't mind; she has it pruned back to nothing every other year). Hopefully, in a few weeks, spring will have sprung forth from the vase I put them in. Apparently you can force blueberry plant cuttings, as well, which I'm tempted to try. Usually I remember to start some narcissus bulbs or at least an amaryllis, but this year my meager forsythia twigs will have to do until the gardens outside begin to awaken.

Just thinking about
forsythia twigs budding
makes me feel warmer.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

February 25: Space ship

We drove south this evening into a gaudy pink sunset which slowly faded to lavender, then gray, with billowy clouds lingering backlit above the horizon. To the north a cloud shaped just like a space ship hovered above Portland's Back Bay. Rather than dissipating, it retained its shape for a long time. I found myself thinking about how I would feel if it actually were a space ship. I think one of the reasons why some people want to believe in extraterrestrial life visiting Earth is that these alien tourists would be to us like gods: smarter, more technologically advanced beings watching over us, building some pyramids, maybe, or crafting a few crop circles. Maybe they could help reverse global warming. On the other hand, what if they aren't benevolent? I had a nightmare once that I was vivisected by aliens. And of course we've all seen movies like "Alien."

The spaceship cloud was a large one, and it glowed long after the moon came into view. It may still have been in holding position when, in near dark, we reached my brother- and sister-in-laws' house.

Watchful spaceship cloud--
how much we want to believe
something up there cares.

Friday, February 24, 2012

February 24: Cat and birds

A flurry of bird activity this morning attracted our cat's attention. She dashed into the kitchen and jumped up onto the counter so quickly I wasn't sure what had happened. When I looked over, she was staring intently through the window as a nuthatch grabbed a seed. Then there was a rush of titmice, repeatedly flying from the feeder to a branch and back. There's no look more finely focused, more rapt, than that of a predator staring at its prey. Knowing that this indoor cat will never kill a bird, I'm happy at least that she has the diversion of being able to watch them and perhaps dream.

Cat inside, birds out.
Exciting or frustrating
to see them so close?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

February 23: River mist

All morning a thick mist rose into the air off the iced-in river, a hazy, shifting wall of fog between us and the opposite shore. The air above the river is warmer than the ice and laden with moisture. Spring-like air. Hence, the mist. From the pines beyond, a pileated woodpecker has been calling sporadically, loudly. His odd laughter, combined with the dense mist, have lent an eerie quality to the river as observed from the climate-controlled comfort of my office. Now, a bank of clouds rolls away eastward and the river ice, exposed at last to sunlight, shines.

Still-frozen river
giving up winter's ghost--
February mist.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

February 22: Crow in flight

After watching a crow's labored flight through the darkening late afternoon sky...

Day's ending: I stop
longer than needed to watch
crow's slow flight to roost.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February 21: Eagle

Driving to the post office on my lunch break, I caught a glimpse of a large bird soaring over a downtown neighborhood: bald eagle! Its white tail caught the light as I drove past. Never get tired of that sight, even after seeing more than a dozen of them yesterday.

One more bald eagle--
yet still I slow down, look up
as it flies over.

Monday, February 20, 2012

February 20: Birthday

Thanks to the fact that this year they decided to make my birthday a federal holiday, my husband and I got to spend the day birding the Midcoast, with a late lunch stop at Morse's Sauerkraut. We made yet another unsuccessful pass through the Samoset to look for the snowy owl, heard fish crows in Rockland, wandered some old cemeteries in the Thomaston-Warren area, saw about a dozen bald eagles, hiked up Beech Hill, and just generally enjoyed a relaxing day off together.

I've always been drawn to old cemeteries. I love to read the inscriptions that telegraph each family's history, some even including narrative: "drowned at sea," "died in Nova Scotia," etc. One we visited today had stones more than 200 years old, the words and images carved in the tall slate slabs still legible. Old oaks, maples, and elms hang over the graves, their roots mingling with the long-dead under the soil. They're places for quiet, for reflecting on how brief and precious life is, and occasionally, for finding an interesting bird (like a flock of fat, red-bellied robins).

I'm not too old yet
to enjoy walking around
old cemeteries.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

February 19: Cowboy boots

My visiting sister and brother-in-law and I went shopping today while my parents watched my nieces. Downtown at one of those antique co-ops where each vendor has their own section, way in the back corner, is a room full of vintage cowboy boots. I've always secretly wanted cowboy boots, and apparently my brother-in-law has too. (My sister has not only owned more than one pair--including a very cool purple pair I coveted when we were younger--but she was even wearing cowboy boots today.) He turned up a pair of very cool black Tony Lama lizard-skin boots, very snazzy looking. Then I found a pair almost exactly the same style except in brown. We both agreed that the boots felt like they were made for us, and that wearing them gave us a tougher new attitude. So we bought them. Happy birthday to me! Now I'm ready to do some walkin'...

Old cowboy boots on,
I find myself wanting to
drink whiskey, kick ass.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

February 18: Goose

Sitting at the computer this morning with the cat next to me, we both heard a goose honk overhead, somewhere far above the house. The cat was very responsive to the sound, which I found interesting since she's strictly an indoor cat and doesn't normally pay a whole lot of attention to what's going on out the windows.

Even the house cat
turns her head when the goose calls
while flying high, north.

Friday, February 17, 2012

February 17: Not the owl I was looking for

Yesterday a friend shared beautiful photos that he got of the snowy owl flying a few days ago near the Rockland Breakwater, and I have to confess they were taunting me. Having some free time this morning, I decided to try yet again to see this elusive and charismatic bird. There was no one walking on the breakwater when I arrived, so I was hopeful. But a quick scan showed it free of birds, as well. A walk on the Samoset grounds also proved fruitless. No agitated crows, no white lumps in the distance.

But I decided to make the most of my outing and see what else was around. In the waters around the breakwater I observed several loons fishing for crabs, a horned grebe, and some buffleheads. A string of eiders drifted past, and a merganser flew overhead. On the beach a ring-billed gull interacted with two herring gulls. And then, a big bird flying over the water caught my eye. It was bulky like an owl, but not white, so not the snowy. I got a better look with my binoculars and was astonished to realize that it was an owl--a short-eared owl! Not at all what I expected!

I've only seen short-eared owls flying over fields, flapping and gliding, dipping low over the grass, turning acrobatically in mid-air. This owl showed the same flight behavior, only it was over the ocean. I watched its every move, fascinated. It swooped low over the water. What was it going to do, catch a fish? Where was it going? Was it going to fly across the outer harbor over to appropriately named Owls Head?

Eventually the bird landed on leeward rocks near the end of the breakwater, out of sight. I didn't want to walk out to try for a closer look, because I'm sure that would have flushed it, causing it needless stress. So after waiting a bit to see if it would move to the top of the breakwater, I left. No snowy owl, yet again, but I was not at all disappointed at what turned up in its place.

Ocean a wide field
for a stray owl to explore.
Cold rocks offer rest.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February 16: Sunrise

The Rotary club I belong to meets on Thursday mornings, a breakfast club. I'm not a morning person, so it's always a challenge for me to get up for these meetings. The camaraderie and the hearty breakfast make it worthwhile once I get there, but that first half-hour each Thursday as I try to get out of the house on time is usually a sluggish one.

What perks me up, however, is a glimpse of the rising sun on my way into town. This morning I was still in a daze as I drove in for the meeting, but when I crested the hill on Washington Street where one finally gets a view of the harbor, the rosy sky glowed so beautifully that I caught my breath.

Worth getting up for--
stirring light show of today's
rosy-fingered dawn.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February 14: My Funny Valentine

Earlier on this holiday of love, I was thinking that my valentine of the day was hearing the titmice singing their courtship songs along the banks of the still-frozen river. What could be more romantic than birds singing songs of love? But this afternoon, as I was talking to a co-worker, a yellow lab appeared at the  glass door leading out to the porch. With no owner in sight, this cute little dog looked in expectantly, tail wagging, no doubt ready to lavish us with slobbery dog kisses if we'd open the door. We exclaimed how sweet our visitor was just as turned away and ran off up the hill, apparently heeding the call of its (still invisible) owner.

My husband has to put up with my watching the Westminster Dog Show every year. Tonight is the final judging. He quickly gets disgusted with such a blatant display of genetic manipulation and inbreeding. I just enjoy marveling at all the different breeds of dogs humans have produced--all those shapes, sizes, and colors for so many different reasons. There are dogs for every purpose: the Norwegian lundehund, for example, has six toes so that it can climb cliffs and hunt puffins; the toys are bred to be companion dogs; it's in the border collie's genes to herd, as my sister who owns one can attest; the bloodhound is a scent hound that can track its quarry's dried blood. There are 13" beagles and 15" beagles, and three different varieties of dachshund. There are elkhounds, deerhounds, and coonhounds; dogs that point, dogs that retrieve. The Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever apparently creates a ruckus in the water to attract curious geese and ducks. The Pekingese, once only owned by Chinese royalty, doesn't even look like a dog as it toddles around the show floor. Truly, without even entering the realm of mutts, there's a dog for everyone... if you want one. I like to think that its like that with humans, too.

Little dog visits
just to see us, devoted
for those brief seconds.

Monday, February 13, 2012

February 13: Robins

A friend birding up in the Machias area today reported seeing hundreds of Newfoundland robins--those bigger, darker Canadian robins that visit the Maine coast each winter for their version of the French Riviera. We had a mini wave of these northern birds at the office this morning. I counted up to 12 robins scratching around under an apple tree outside my window. Not having many other birds to distract me, I got out the binoculars to admire these visiting thrushes. Fluffed up in the cold, they looked especially large, and the white markings around their eyes were as especially visible. These looked like robins with a mission, moving from apple tree to berry bush to crabapple, gleaning the late-lingering, shriveled up, frozen fruits of last summer.

Robins, not much else.
The eye is drawn to what moves
in this cold landscape.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

February 12: Not finding the owl (again)

Yesterday at 7:40 a.m. a friend emailed that there was a snowy owl on the Rockland Breakwater. I got the message at 8:30, was down there by 9:00. Of course by then it had flown (probably away from the people walking on the breakwater). But from the path I could hear a bunch of crows making a racket--the kind of racket they make when mobbing an owl. I could see them going after something on the roof of one of the buildings at the Samoset Resort, which abuts the Breakwater Park. But the roof itself was not visible from any angle on the ground, alas. And even more unfortunate, I had to be back in Camden by 9:30, so I couldn't wait around for the owl to get fed up with the crows and move on to a hopefully more visible perch. So I left frustrated in my owl quest. (My friend later confirmed that the owl had indeed flown from the breakwater to the building the crows had pegged.)

This is not the first time I've missed a snowy owl. For several winters during my childhood a snowy owl would perch on the roof of the historic Finnish church in South Thomaston; my dad and I drove down there several times to see it without success. Unlike many birders I know, I'm not a "bird magnet." Cool birds don't come easy to me.

My husband and I went back early this afternoon and walked all around the Samoset grounds despite the icy blasts of wind coming straight off the water. Lots of Canada geese, a few mergansers, but no snowy owl. I guess I'll just have to take comfort in knowing it was there yesterday, even if I couldn't see it. (As small consolation, I did see a pileated woodpecker fly across the road as I was driving back to Camden.)

Owl not seen, again.
Yet I could feel its presence
in that Arctic wind.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

February 11: National Toboggan Championships

Spent the day at the Camden Snow Bowl for the annual US National Toboggan Championships, first working at the West Bay Rotary Chowder-Chili Challenge tent, and later hanging out with my friends while waiting for my brother-in-law's team, the Schleddy Balls, to take their run. The Toboggan Championships is a festive weekend at the Snow Bowl, with vendors offering fair-like treats and lots of tents, geodesic domes, etc. on the ice for partying. People-watching opportunities abound, from the costumed teams--including the Royal Dutch Toboggan team dressed up like some sort of cross between Marie Antoinette and geishas, a hula-skirted team from Hawaii, my brother-in-law's team with giant sports balls on their head, to Little Sled Riding Hood, a four-person team composed of Little Sled Riding Hood, a wolf (that repeatedly upset a small Boston terrier), grandma in her flannel nightgown, and a woodcutter whose axe did double duty as a meatball-spearing utensil--to observers ranging from locals checking out the scene to visitors from afar marveling at the entertainment. A lot of tail-gating was going on, and one tent seemed to be offering a dance party with hula hoops. I ate a corn dog for the first time in years (as well as many meatballs). And all day the snow fell without seeming to accumulate, as the sun appeared but shone in vain. At day's end, as I was picking up my car in the shuttle parking area, fireworks were bursting over Camden harbor. This event is one of the reasons I love living here--crazy, eclectic, active, and embracing the winter season and a broad diversity of people; what more could one ask for in mid-February?

The ride down the chute
is the least of it: winter
needs this festive break.

Friday, February 10, 2012

February 10: Pussy Willow

A friend told me recently that when he first moved to Maine, to the boonies of Montville, his 80-year old neighbor told him that every winter she just counted down the days till February 10. Why that date? he wondered. Because, she told him, that's when we start to feel the heat of the sun again here in Maine.

We certainly felt the heat of the sun today, with 45-degree temperatures and clear skies. Up on Beech Hill, where the trail was enjoying a brief mud season, I even came across a pussy willow with two catkins (which was a challenge to photograph in a strong wind).

Hard to imagine that we haven't really turned the corner into spring, that it's going to snow several inches tomorrow and be icy cold on Sunday. But, hey, it's February 10. When the sun does come back out, we'll feel its heat again, more pussy willows will bud, then leaf out. And soon the warmth will be here to stay, for a few months at least.

Catkins in the snow--
even the willow knows when 
earth tilts toward the sun.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

February 9: Hunger

Our cat was a starving stray before she came to us, so she has some food issues. We're trying to get her on a regular eating regimen so that she doesn't overeat and become obese and unhealthy. But in the training process, she's not getting to consume as much as she thinks she would like to. So she spends a good deal of time after what are quite filling meals wandering around the house yowling for more. The drama of it! She's like the Sarah Bernhardt of cats, surely about to waste away any moment as she restlessly paces the house. Such soulful stares we get as she looks up at us, meowing pitifully, as if to stir us into action toward that empty dish.

Such carrying-on
facing night's wide-open maw--
the hunger of youth.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

February 8: Rising moon

The moon was rising tonight as I headed home from the gym, rising behind low clouds so that its broad orange face was distorted by hazy bands. You couldn't even tell how full it was--just one big blur of light glowing above the horizon, irradiating the obscuring clouds. A bit bleary, as if rising full three nights in a row was a bit much for it, a little too much partying for our reflective satellite.

It's hard to believe
that radiant orb gives off
no light of its own.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

February 7: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Today is the birthday of Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957. In the mid-1970s I was given a boxed set of her Little House on the Prairie books for my birthday, and I've been in love with them ever since. When we were in Florida last month for Bookmania, I met author Wendy McClure, who recently wrote The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie, a book about her obsession with the books and where it led her (which was, quite literally, around the country following Laura's footsteps). I was not the only one who told her after her panel presentation how exciting it was to find another Laura fanatic out there.

I think one of the most resonant features of the Little House books, which Wendy discusses quite articulately, is how you feel that the Laura in the books was a real live girl and that you, the reader, are really her friend. Also, she writes with an incredibly strong sense of place. You're there in the big woods with panthers screaming in the trees, watching a blizzard cloud rise above the prairie horizon, bringing yet another snow storm, or picking wild violets with Baby Grace in a buffalo wallow in the tall-grass prairie.

The first book in the series, Little House in the Big Woods, ends with these lines: "She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago." A Little House Moment of Zen, if there ever was one.

On my couch, and yet
prairie winds riffle my hair,
urge on my pony.

Monday, February 6, 2012

February 6: Hark, the cardinal sings

I stopped by a friend's house this afternoon to drop something off. He happened to be pulling into his driveway just as I was, so we had a conversation right there in the afternoon sun. At one point he hushed me. "You can hear the chickens in the backyard, responding to our voices," he said. I stopped talking, and sure enough, the loud clucking of hens could be heard from the back of his house, where he has a very fancy chicken coop. They obviously just wanted to be included in the conversation.

But as I was listening, I also heard another bird. From a few houses away, the loud whistle of a male cardinal rang out like a car alarm. A sound of spring! Sure, it's supposed to get down to single digit temperatures this weekend, but today this crazy bird thinks spring is here. "Come and get me, ladies," he shouts.

The cardinal's not the only one a little ahead of himself, either. My parents reported seeing a couple of turkey vultures flying over I-95 this morning in southern Maine. Vultures, more than robins, are my favorite predictor of vernality (I think I just made up that word). If they make it this far up the coast soon, I'm going to start packing up my insulated Sorels.

Hens' conversation
and one insistent cardinal--
birds make themselves heard.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

February 5: In the cemetery

My husband got some new binoculars recently so I decided to walk over to the cemetery and try them out. I don't think I heard or saw a single bird, but I always enjoy roaming around the headstones and finding my maternal grandfather's. He died when I was three, so I have only the haziest memory of him, but I've been able to locate his grave in the cemetery ever since I was five and we lived in a nearby apartment in this same neighborhood. His grave and the adjacent ones of my great-grandfather and great-uncle, whom I never knew, have served as literal touchstones for me throughout my life. I calculated once that I'd moved 15 times before I was a teenager. But no matter where we lived, I always knew where to find my grandfather's grave in Camden, even on days like today when the marker's buried under snow.

The snow revealed signs of previous visitors to these silent rows--light footprints of other humans barely visible on the crusty surface, as well as the deeper tracks of cats, squirrels, and a crow which had walked on the snow before it froze. The squirrel tracks had melted and then refrozen, and their softened edges made them look like a meandering row of hearts.

Familiar gravestones,
heart-shaped squirrel tracks in snow.
I keep coming back.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

February 4: Black branches

I ran into someone yesterday who said that they don't mind how cold it gets here as long as the sun is shining: 35 degrees with icy drizzle is unbearably miserable compared to 25 degrees and sunny. Today, with the sun shining, I left my hat in the car so I could feel the sun on my hair as I walked around town. It was a pleasure just to roam the sidewalks, running into people I know and helping the local economy as I bought some Valentine's Day gifts for my husband and family.

Now the sun has set and the sky is the palest blue sheet behind the messy scrawling of black branches. Some of the branches form the patterns of runes, an ancient alphabet of straight lines that could be easily carved as into wood with a knife or chiseled into rock. It is thought that they were originally used for charms and spells; the Norse god Odin recounts in the poetic Edda how he learned the magic runes by hanging nine days on a tree. New Agers cast stones carved with them as a form of divination.

Many of the simple shapes of runes can be easily picked out in the natural lines around us. For instance, the slender maple tree, stark against the sky, looks like the Fehu rune: the trunk a straight line with two branches lifting to the right at a 45-degree angle. This rune meant "cattle" and symbolically represented wealth and abundance--appropriate for my afternoon of shopping, as well as for all that I have in my life for which I am so grateful.

Branches etch dark runes
against sky--cryptic poems,
arboreal spells.

Friday, February 3, 2012

February 3: Loon in the harbor

During a work-related lunch at the Waterfront this afternoon, I kept getting distracted by gulls flying over the harbor in view of the windows: Was I mistaken, or did that one seem to have all-white wings? (Yes, I was mistaken.) Is it too early to see a laughing gull? (Yes.) Is that just a large, immature gull in the distance or an eagle? (Gull.) It made me realize how much I'm itching to get out and tromp around on this icy snow crust and look for some birds, something I haven't done enough of this winter--with the exception of our vacation in Florida (which thankfully did not involve icy snow crust).

As our conversation wound to a close and the food disappeared, I was inordinately pleased to notice a loon drifting around among the empty floats in the harbor. It wasn't an unusual loon, just a big fat common loon with a white throat, hanging out, diving now and then. I pointed it out to my dining companion. Soon, I imagined, that loon, sporting spiffy new breeding plumage, will be perfectly poised to head a few miles inland and stake out a perfect territory on the lake.

Winter mind, barren,
latches onto these few birds,
making more of them.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

February 2: Momentary flash forward

Today, Groundhog Day, around here at least there wasn't a lot of shadow-casting. Does that mean spring is coming soon?

This afternoon I was engaged in an online course coordinated by the Middlebury Alumni College on the poetry of Robert Frost. This class, we read and discussed his poems "Mowing" and "Spring Pools," and the latter poem in particular moved me forward a couple of months and set me right down in another season for a moment, next to a vernal pool filled with water "from snow that only melted yesterday." There's a vernal pool near the Ducktrap River where each spring we look for salamander and frog eggs. Some years there's still a skim of ice along the edges when we notice the gelatinous masses hovering in the deeper water above a thick layer of sodden dead leaves. Trout lilies bloom nearby--the "watery flowers" to reflect in the "flowery waters"--and you can almost feel the energy in the trees as the sap rises and the "pent-up buds" begin to swell and open. Yes, it might be only 40 degrees, but you know spring is there all around you, in the water and in the woods.

Just a few more weeks...

It seemed an appropriate poem to study on Groundhog Day, also the pagan holiday of Imbolc, falling halfway between Winter Solstice and Vernal Equinox. We celebrate the first stirrings of spring as the days lengthen beyond ten hours of light, knowing that around here "spring" doesn't always mean warm sunshine and daffodils. A cold pool in the woods, filled with frog eggs and surrounded by skunk cabbage--or just reading about such a pool!--will suffice.

Under its ice shell
vernal pool waits. Days lengthen.
Frogs stir in their sleep.