Hopeful Signs


Unexpected snowdrop flowers bursting out of the salt and grime encrusted roadbed along East Shore drive are the first floral arrivals I have seen.  Last week, even a few days ago, this was just a dirty pile of frozen snow.  Underneath it all, in some unsuspected way, the natural clockwork continues on as always.

Surprising mystery is the most enduring and endearing thing about the real world, as opposed to the logical patterns and rhythms and meanings our minds are always veiling it with.  No matter what we expect, we are mistaken in general or in detail.  You can let that make you angry, or unsettled, or you can use the wonderful gift we have been given to deal with such moments _ just laugh and move on.

Skunk cabbage flowers are reliably out by now, being endothermic which means they generate their own heat.  I guess the idea is to entrance any insects crazily ambitious to get an early start.  In any case, I always know they are there, usually in mud somewhere, by mid-March.  It’s just a matter of me getting up enough gumption to go take a look and get my feet dirty.

Soon the luscious green leaves will be unfolding.  They were certainly tempting to the early colonists after a hard winter living on dried beans, ground grain, and salted meat or fish.  Unfortunately, the name is there for a reason, and they are totally inedible, even by the relaxed standards of starvation country local specialties.  One of the few plants for which humans have yet found no use but beauty, and even that is somewhat an acquired taste.


Pussy willows are the cheap watches of seasonal indicators.  I’ve seen them breaking out after the first cold following December solstice, and any warm spell can get one or two to show up.  Often by the time they are everywhere, everything else is completely bursting with vitality.  Since they are hardly gigantic, only people on foot would really notice, anyway.

I’ve had trouble making dramatic shots of certain things.  There can be an open question about that, because some of nature is beautiful in its own right but hardly dramatic.  Our society loves the bold and grand and attention-grabbing no matter what is required to obtain it.  A blade of grass or a pussy willow bud are quiet and almost shy, but just as amazing as fierce gale or me.

A Joker?  No sign of spring here.  Oh, the brambles may have a bit of red, but otherwise budless, leafless, brown, dry, dormant and desolate.  If you could hear, you would encounter little if any birdsong.  If you were here, you would feel the constant bitterly cold North wind off the harbor.  Finding spring in this scene is a Sherlock Holmes puzzle.  Hint: equinox.

What’s missing is ice on the fresh water pond.  In spite of all the fronts and vortexes the evil international conspiracy in Canada keeps sending our way, the day is now as long as the night and the rays of the sun at midday are more at right angles to the earth.  The brown muck on the bottom and the dust on the snow worked together to clear the water no matter how frigid it may get overnight.  Ah, spring indeed _ this is what is known as cold comfort.
Fri –

That this sailboat is afloat is actually a sign of spring.  Hard to tell from the picture, but it is covered with several years of dried muck that attach when it is submerged.  Every winter, it reliably sinks in one of the storms.  Every spring, in some Sisyphean effort, it is raised again, undoubtedly in the continuing hope that this is the yearwhen it can be cleaned up and sold or at least used.  Until, of course, next winter comes along.

Seasonal rhythms are not relegated to what we term “nature.”  Spring’s effect on young men and women is well known.  These days herds of people migrate north and south like parasites on jetliners.  And, yes, I hope that this will be the year I finally do … whatever.


Toilers of the Sea sowing boat seeds in Puppy Cove.  In a month the fleet will return, almost magically overnight, and it will be hard to recall pristine open waters. 

Everyone for weeks has been reassuring each other that “spring is on the way.”  While a good deal of nature obviously agrees, and as human seasonal preparations and rituals continue, the weather refuses to go along, with another snowstorm possible next week.  We all seem to get this way every year about this time _ March is usually nasty and April disappointing.   Unless you just accept it for what it is, which is endless promises.



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