Monday, February 28, 2011

February? March? April?

What a crazy month February has been! We had snow. There were temperatures in the teens. Then it warmed up. Friday the wind was whipping through with hurricane force. (Isn’t wind supposed to be a March feature?) Now the weatherpeople are telling us to expect, on the last February day, torrential rain. (April showers, anyone?) So on Sunday before the rain and after the wind and possibly in the middle of what is most likely a weather aberration, I am outside with no coat, enjoying the sunshine on a spring-like afternoon.

Punxatawney Phil, that famous groundhog predictor of when spring will arrive, came out of his burrow on Groundhog’s Day at Cobbler’s Knob in Punxatawney, PA and did not see his shadow. This supposedly means that we will have an early spring. My daffodils must believe it; they are sending up leaves. There are buds on the bushes and hints of greenery on most of the trees. They are taking their chances. I remember snowstorms as late as early April and surprise frosts when the calendar said it was officially spring. But I know that plants have their own timetable more dependent on the light and the earth’s axis than on the weather channel.

That doesn’t stop me from appreciating the day as it is, from being in my backyard, talking to the plants, pruning the dead wood, anticipating what I will do in the garden. It doesn’t stop my neighbors either. The kids across the street are shooting hoops, the girls next door are out in their leotards, back from dancing, without a coat in sight. I see strollers on the street and hear the joy of outdoor life. I think the variability of the weather adds awareness to our activities. I know it helps me focus on the present moment – and on this penultimate day in February it was delightful.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Green Acres

This is a Green Acres site. Right now there isn’t much green to be seen; winter is still having its way with us, though it teases with an occasional spring-like day. But the trees will soon send out leaves, the wildflowers will bloom, and the bare land will be dressed in green again This particular acreage is situated along a busy roadway in Marlton, New Jersey.

Green Acres is a program that preserves natural spaces for public use or safeguards the natural environment from development. It depends upon both public and private partners. So far over 640,000 acres have been protected in New Jersey alone.

There has been so much development over the past decades that woodlands and farms now are likely to be housing developments or malls. So I love to see these signs that are popping up in many towns. Part of horse farm has been preserved and its flattened fields replanted with evergreens. A family farm continues to as a working farm though it is surrounded by housing developments. A field became a place for local teams to practice and compete. Small plots of land are sometimes donated and may end up as larger pieces as contiguous acreage is added.

I think it is important to maintain a mixture of land usages within a town. Parks for people to stroll in, jog though, or refresh themselves. Historical sites preserved for residents to have a sense of the history of their surroundings. Wild, natural, places to elevate our spirits and remind us of our connection with the rest of the natural world. Green Acres seems to me a good thing, something respectful in a world in which respect is often hard to come by.

Monday, February 14, 2011


The snow seems to have stopped for now. Today is meant to be close to sixty. The layers of ice that coated the streets are reluctantly melting and the piles of icy white are pulling back from lawns and parking lots all around town. Spring daydreams are interrupting my work; I sense March in the gusts of wind that rattle against my office window.

But not to get too far ahead of myself, I saw this barren nest in the low branches of a tree not yet convinced that it is time to send out its foliage. A wise decision, I think, as I listen to the latest weather report. The temperature is going to drop down to the twenties tonight.

This time of year is fickle. Almost as if Mother Nature can’t decide what to wear. I can relate. Winter jacket or fleece? Corduroy or linen? Long sleeves, short sleeves, sweaters, or Tees? And the nest? Will it be occupied by the same mother bird for a new batch of feathered babies or is it truly abandoned, left to fray to pieces over the course of the year?

The shifting of seasons is a time for observation. Here in the northeast, because of being in a geographical place that experiences four seasons, we have plenty of opportunities to contemplate the vagaries of nature, indeed, of our own imaginings. When things stay the same our thoughts tend to as well. Throw in a little snow and the neighbors come out to play. Let spring showers drench the soil and we hunger to plant a vegetable garden. Summer heat sends us to the shore, fall leaves turn us inward.

I think I saw a young cardinal on the feeder this morning. It seems a tad early for fledglings to be about but maybe not, maybe mommy birds are spring-dreaming, too. Are you?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fog, Shmog

Last week there was fog. Lots of it. Neighborhood after neighborhood peeked out from behind its curtain and traffic lights emitted radiant glows as the fog cast auras around them.

Yes, I know that fog causes a decrease in visibility and can make driving dangerous. I also know that it blurs everything into a colorless mass of gray. The composition of fog is ordinary – dewy water droplets, sometimes icy crystals, hanging in the air. Fog, shmog, you say. What is the big deal about fog? It’s only a cloud, after all, that’s close to the ground.

Ah, but that is exactly the big deal. Fog says, SlowDown! Certainly for safety when driving; I don’t want to minimize the need for caution. It is more than that, though. A cloud is something mysterious. Fog tends to slow down our automatic assessment of what we normally see and perhaps our judgments of those things. It makes us pay attention, to be alert to the unexpected, sometimes for our personal safety. Yet conversely, it feeds our often-repressed inner child’s imagination. What might be hidden in the haze? A castle, perhaps, with a princess in a lofty tower. A parade marching by with the sound of its drums and excitement muffled (are those children on the sidewalk holding red and yellow balloons and cheering?). Where is that unicorn going?

Then there is the sheer beauty of a foggy day. It’s hard not to be captivated by how a fog hints at things, begging us – daring us – to fill in the blanks. Here are some captivating photos: and some fog info as well
As Carl Sandburg wrote: The fog comes on little cat feet...
Intriguing, isn't it?