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.

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