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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The significance of signs

Speaking as someone who has read an inordinate number of fantasy and semi-historical novels over the decades, let me share that in most of them one is to pay attention to signs and portents, especially messages from the natural world. (Come to think of it, Wordsworth and company exhibited the same tendency in 1798.) Moving into the last few years of my career, I have been experiencing a restlessness that was not part of my thirties and forties, so when two Canada geese flew across my path on my way to work Thursday, the experience felt like A Sign. After all, the geese were not in a flock or a gaggle, but a pair, so perhaps the meaning was that my faraway spouse and I should look for work in the same place, away from this valley in which I have spent the last thirty years. The birds were flying east: was that to be our direction? (It may be possible to have read entirely too much Serious Literature as a young person.)

However, walking home from the library that gloriously gorgeous afternoon, just as I was preparing to cross the street, light hit the sycamores growing near the drainage ditch, making them glow in the way of sycamores in sun.
Perhaps rootedness is the message being conveyed, learning to grow in "one dear, perpetual place," as the sixty-something Yeats wished for his daughter (and not his son, I might add.).

Then at home, a glance out the back window brought a near-overdose of cuteness. What should one make of a pair of squirrels, companionably stuffing their little faces?
That's the problem with signs and portents: they contradict each other (if one can even read them in the first place).

Monday, March 18, 2013

More spring teases

The calendar says that spring will be here in a few days, and I'm finally believing it, despite the cold grayness of the last couple of days. When I came home this afternoon, robins were tugging at dried grass in the front yard, so baby birds will no doubt be making their appearance soon. I also heard an unfamiliar bird song, and while I couldn't see the singer with sky, trees, birds, and all fading into gray, the shape and size indicated that perhaps the grackles are making their 2013 appearance.

Not only have the snow crocuses been blooming for a while, the bees are beginning to find them. 

The lonicera sempervirens is leafing out,

 and the striped maple has color in the buds.
 Best of all, our native dwarf iris are showing their colors.
Now if only the deer had left a little new growth on the (formerly) redbud.

Friday, March 15, 2013

It's official

While spring has not yet arrived according to the calendar, it certainly seems to be springing around here. Yesterday found the first daffodils of the year blooming in the yard of a home in Parkersburg's historic district, and two days this week were warm enough for wandering around without a coat. The big Dutch crocuses have joined their small-flowering relatives in the front planting bed, and while our narcissus haven't bloomed, there is color in the buds. The mock orange has teasing hints of green and is threatening bud break, as the redbud would be if the deer hadn't eaten it nearly to the ground.

But spring is officially here when the first whiff of skunk wafts through the neighborhood, and this week skunk musk has wafted on more than one occasion. (Hey, it's been a long winter, and we take what we can get.)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Signs of spring

  • The first bee in a crocus blossom
  • Titmice singing rather than squawking
  • New rosettes of growth on the stiff goldenrod and hummingbird mint
  • Red maple blossoms, the first native blooms around here.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

More old coots

Actually, I've no idea if today's coots were old or young, but having only recently seen my first coot, I must confess to being delighted with their white bills and funky feet. Of course, having had no intention of birding on today's ramble, there was no camera in my pocket, so anyone unfamiliar with coots will need to check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site for pictures and information. The American coot is evidently another common bird that I had managed to miss for more than half a century, but today we saw a whole flock of them hanging out with the mallards and Canada geese under the old railroad bridge linking downtown Marietta and Historic Harmar Village.

The most surprising (to me) fact about this small waterfowl is that it is actually more closely related to the sandhill crane, which it resembles not at all, than to either the ducks with which it swims or the chickens it resembles.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Snow Squirrel

I'm sure I've mentioned before that I am totally ready for winter to be over. It seems that getting away to Florida over the holidays has made me crave warmth, blue skies, and green, growing things even more than usual, so I must report being less than thrilled when Wednesday morning's view out the front door was this:

Beautiful in its own way, certainly, but not what I was in the mood for. The view out the back window was of more snow,

and while I like snow-covered hemlocks as well as anyone, I am ready to be outside digging in the (non-frozen) dirt.
We did, however, have a visitor who seemed perfectly content to rummage through the snow in search of buried goodies.
There's probably a metaphor somewhere in there.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A rare bird

A thirty-five-degree day with spitting snow frequently brings a lot of action at the feeders, and today was no exception. It's always good to see the usual suspects, and today brought titmice, a host of house finches, and a goldfinch showing just the faintest hint of breeding plumage. (Can you say "spring"?) Then: something unusual.

This cardinal lacks both the bright red of the usual male and the rich brown of most females. The red crest standing out against the buff and almost-cream of the body made me wonder if this bird is a young male who's not managed to get the food that would allow for the development of true red, but a little research has me thinking that this is a semi-leucistic female.

today's bird

a juvenile from spring 2011

Leucism is the absence of normal pigment in birds that are not true albinos, a phenomenon I first learned of on Jim MacCormac's excellent blog, Ohio Birds and Biodiversity. People in central Ohio have been seeing cardinals that are purely pink and cream, much paler than today's visitor. The ever-helpful Sibley Guides revealed what we probably have: a dilute female cardinal. Whatever she is, she's a beauty.