It’s the middle of March and they are bickering in the heavens again.
Move out, you Old Goat, you’re done, finished.
Old goat, eh! I’ll show you. Want a blast of wind chill? And some crusty barbs of ice? You—you—you Spring Chicken.
No problem. I’ve got a picnic blanket of warm sunbeams ready to throw over all those fancy schmancy ice crystals of yours. Ha, ha, ha ha they’re turning to mush already.
That’s nuthin’, I’ll tear that goofy blanket of yours to shreds. Got some nice sleet goin’ here. And maybe wrassle up a wind and bring me down some pine cones and gum balls while I’m at it.
Why you – you — you Old Goat, I’m blowin’ you up north for good. I’ll get that Sound water movin’ and I’ll flood those canals and rivers so bad you’ll never get back.
Just try, Spring Chicken, ‘cuz I’ll blow you right back south across the Sound and dry up your precious canals.
That’s it! Time for a tornado.
Hah! Can’t do it without me.
What to do? We innocent gardeners are caught between the two warriors. We slog in February’s rain. We watch our plants sprout green on balmy days, then shrivel in a freeze.
Occasionally there are signs of a truce. Usually late afternoon, if the air is still. A waning, hidden sun, not to be denied, lights pearl clouds. The land gleams like polished pewter. Maybe a kittenish breeze nudges the clouds off, and pewter blends to gold and honey. Until dusk brings on lead.
The soil is cold and mucky when I dig. They say you can ruin the soil if you work it wet, but I can’t wait for the bickering to end.
Shiny earthworms squirm when I uncover them.
Turn out the lights, they seem to say, we don’t belong out here.
Daffodils love these pitched battles. Sisters of Winter. Cheerleaders of freezes. What’s a little fracas to them? In an over-cooled sun-drenched ice-box, they snap upright, fresh as ever, and nod me good day.
I am the daffodil detective.
Once the spears push out of frigid ground, I am out there checking, running my fingers around the base to find that telltale flower-bud bulge.
Obviously, the narcissus to the left passed the test easily, which delighted me to no end.
(In the interests of complete disclosure to readers, daffodils have never paid me for these consults.)
Their playmates are forsythia, quince, and bridal wreath spirea.
An unruly trio, as bold as the daffodils, elbowing for territory, their gauzy, gaudy costumes turn heads up and away from weedy ground.
Farm fields ignore the tumult.
They wait, bristling stubs, last year’s leavings, and green weeds.
Weeds by definition are always green.
Red maples pay no mind to the weather. They seem always to be on time., spattering crimson blossoms in tree branches along roadsides and in swamps.
Hazy foreshadowing of a new season. It’s a short dance for them, though, they are cast off in a few days, bits of flotsam.
Delicate pollynoses will follow them very soon, flung away in a haphazard search for fertile landings.
Before other trees are even thinking about their offspring, (heck, the beech tree is still only losing its leaves and the oak has not yet begun to let its catkins fly) red maples are finished for the year. They can coast along on whatever weather summer brings.
In deference to the venerable oak, it takes a season to grow an acorn. But that nutritious kernel will become the staff of life next winter for forest creatures.)
Bradford pears are punctual, too. Never mind their willingness to go rogue and squander pollen, they are first to flounce.
Crisp, paper white blossoms reflect off my neighbor’s street lamp each night. Sheer filigree of light banishing a circle of darkness the way a full moon shines up the night.
While Jupiter and Saturn chase each other across the ecliptic like good soldiers on a march that never ends.
Forsythia fades but mischievous Carolina jessamine takes up a yellow banner for Spring at the end of March.
It scrambles over fences and weaves through trees, splashing sunshine where you least expect it.
Bright constellations of spent petals swirl in currents driven by breezes. I see the currents clearly because they are marked by streamers of pollen.
Pine pollen is cosmic dust come for a visit. Yellow clouds sweep in, coat cars and trucks, stain roads, invade the sinuses.
The yellow haze dusts plants with yellow flour, streams down waterways. Gusty rainstorms collect random grains and clump them in yellow rivulets that weave unseemly patterns on roads and cars. They linger until the next downpour (or a car wash).
Gentler raindrops rearrange pollen on leaves into tiny crescents, like fine old needlework.
Canada geese make regular noisy tours of our slip while the seasons are tugging. Checking out digs? Goofing off? Impressing a partner?
On a day when Spring seems ascendant, a pair of wood ducks are loafing, until a Canada goose casually sidelines them by flexing feathers. We do not see the pair again. Size matters, I guess.
Prospective parents investigate our waters each spring, then leave. Apparently we lack the finer amenities for raising young.
I see a streak across the water. Otter?
They’re around, and you can see them if you ride the canal. We smell the sea when they choose to dine on fresh water mussels off our point.
The beaver that gnawed his way through winter seems to be gone. He finished off some good-sized saplings and chewed some hefty sprouts from a rising red bay.
We spent big bucks to drop a girdled 60-foot sweet gum soon to topple inconveniently. And what, do you suppose, a beaver would do with a tree like that?
They say the sound of trickling water triggers dam-building in beavers, so Bob stuffed a rag in our heat pump outflow pipe to mellow its gurgles.
The ploy seems to have worked, thank goodness.
It’s a whippy windy day. The sun is blinding white and the sky is crystal blue. Clouds are scudding and I hear shrill cries.
The osprey are back, or she is lately back and he, having come early for their rendezvous, is glad to see her arrive.
They fill the skies and cross the sun, their large shadows swallow me up.
Careening and dipping and diving, screeching or cooing, looping away and together, climbing to vertical until there’s almost a stall, challenging the gusts, knowing they can always recover from a ripping wind. Having a glorious time.
When the osprey soar and the shadbush blow, I know that the bickering has ended and Spring has finally booted Winter out.
Redbud and crabapple, box turtles and sliders, forgetmenots and tent caterpillars will stir.
Spring blues and early swallowtails will flutter.
A single azalea blossom will poke out, and the weeds will disappear in a mountain of bloom.
Eventually, deprived of their ice box, daffodils will sprawl in this new sauna, limp but greedy for a last bit of sunshine before they go under.
Later, as I trim the layabouts, I wonder whose idea it was to plant so many.
Fast forward to late April. Gardeners’ conversations now run to how dusty the soil is, how cracked the mud in the ditch is and how we need rain.
Unless it’s been windy, rainy and cold for a week. (Winter’s last mischievous gotcha?). Then the conversation turns to kaboomed blooms, littered lawns, soggy soil, and lost moments in a green world.
Either way, tee shirts begin to replace jackets and Summer is fast closing in on the skirts of Spring.