And weird. Temperature fluxes up to 40 degrees in a single day. 56 degrees in the middle of February. Frozen snow and ice next to warm slush puddles adorned by whipping winds that remind me of those coiled things in the science museum - where one is hot and one is cold and when you touch it your mind bends with confusion.
The birds are wild. They are driving into activity; by the light I'm convinced, not the temperature. The flocks of blackbirds and grackles and geese are swirling over the open farmlands like an interpretive dance embodying Dorothy's windswept house. They land in succession and continue their percussive movement with hungry little beaks collecting seed, as the blanket of snow has finally been pulled back enough to uncover them.
Our resident Pileateds have been circling our home on nearly a daily basis, coming right to our yard trees more often than ever. Their spiral tree dance is spectacular, and their whooping call never ceases to amaze me, filling every empty crevice of forest with bouncing sound.
The plants seem to be yawning. I imagine the roots just stirring from slumber... the kind that keeps you in bed, lucid for hours, on that rare Sunday morning of lavish time. The hours where reality and dreams mesh together like layers of pastel gauze on a tutu. Their deepest little rootlets take a deep breath, and notice the trickle of melted snow beginning to penetrate the soil bed. The sun, brightest of the whole year it seems, triggers the plants into waking. My mom used to wake me by doing compressions along my legs to get my circulation going. It's just the same under there, as the heat and cold expand and contract, massaging the dirt into life. The red roots of the bloodroot, the first to begin the rise of green, remind me that won't be long before their little hooded beings come out of hiding.
In the distance a brave little soul fashions a winter shelter. He layers boughs and branches as strategically as he can with his little 9 year old hands. He breathes in the life of the quiet land, making beauty and joy out of few resources. He is near the beehive, which may or may not have a huddling colony inside. His place on the hill in his fort dons a patchwork of lichens and mosses as perfect as any decorator could invent. The moddled colors stand out sharp against the white ground.
He is usually the first to notice the details.... the garlic mustard that refused to be anything but green all winter. The tiny imprints on rocks of ancient creatures. The animal tracks in the snow, and the hidden nests in the bramble. The metaphors in the flowers.
The trees he leans his shelter against are right behind Persephone. Persephone guards the beehive, and provides a lovely mix of hardwood among the hemlocks. I have begun to name my trees, you see. This is my effort to know every single tree that is in my immediate yard. It is personal. It is part of my dedication to placed based learning. I know most all of the ground greens that grow, but I don't know the trees very well. I am learning.
This is Maybel:Or Maybelline, proper. She is the stunning Eastern Hemlock on the far right edge, (there are two), and she lines my view with her feathery limbs through each color of the day's sky. I've taken countless photos of her, since she frames each season with a consistent beauty. The kind of beauty that *I* feel is the real Maybelline kind. Natural. Maybelline guards us against the harshest of Northeast winds, and offers a showcase of bird perches for us to watch. She delights in the diamonds of winter's snow and ice, showing them off like a million bucks sprinkled with fairy dust. And her arms hold at least one visit each summer by a large bird of prey.
Her spirit guards my home.
Her partner, the Hemlock just to the left of her in the above photo, is the provider tree. He hosts a plethora of meals for the Pileateds in his lower trunk, a couple of large nests, and ample bounding branches for the squirrels' daily trapeze practice. My horizon wouldn't be the same without them.