Sunday, April 20, 2014

Frosts are slain and flowers begotten

This morning, the cottontails didn't want to leave the backyard. Two of them nosed among the dead leaves that I never raked last fall. One stayed, nibbling at the young dandelions, until mid-morning, while resting in the branch-shadows of the silver maple. A visit from the Easter bunny, and at my age!

And while I wasn't blogging, the spring happened. 

Of course, she's been happening for weeks behind a very convincing facade of winter...getting dressed in early green behind the standing screen of unrelenting grayness, trying the patience of even the most philosophical among us. (Except the Robins--rolls right off their feathery backs.)

Right now, the cardinals whistle many and madly, the goldfinch sings its long, busy song brimming with questions, buzzes and peeps, a nuthatch grunts at my unwelcome presence and between games of chase the squirrels eye my newly planted pansies. 

Far, far up in the sky over the river today I saw a Great Blue Heron flying to some secret wetland home. I spotted red-winged blackbirds perched atop winter-bleached marsh grass, trilling to brown-speckled females of their kind to witness their splendor. I saw a hawk speed by burdened with a stick for nest building. 

Now Lady Cardinal flutters in the lilac bush at my back, sometimes sounding the alarm and other times just alighting on a branch then flying off in disgust, as if to say, Still here, are you? Right then, I'm off. (Unaccountably, she's got a British-bird accent.)

It's a rare Easter Sunday here that children's floppy-brimmed hats don't get traded for woolen ones after setting foot outside the front door, but here it is. A gift. Finally we have our second nice-nice day of the spring. Nice-nice meaning 60+ degrees + blue sky + mild zephyrs + NO SNOW. 

And oh, how much sweeter it is for being so long in coming, so wistfully anticipated. This is something the folks in California will never, ever know. (We tell ourselves, in consolation.)

Trying to buy off the squirrel with nuts. It worked.

Our old desktop PC gave up the ghost of Internet access, so I write to you with gratitude from the first laptop of my very own, fresh out of the box and smelling of Appley goodness. The keys feel silky to the touch, the softly-silvered metal caresses the undersides of my paraphrase one of my favorite bloggers, it's Sunday and I'm in love. 

Now I see from my chair in the backyard that Ms. Cardinal has landed in the wild-leaved Witch Hazel shrub I brought home from the garden store yesterday, an impulse purchase after reading a chapter about this November-blooming native full of medicine in Robin Wall Kimmerer's amazing book, Braiding Sweetgrass

More on the wonders of this book in another post, but suffice it to say if you feel any glimmer of interest in 1. plants 2. women's ways of experiencing the world 3. indigenous peoples in relation to the land 4. taking personal care of the earth 5. the relationship between human people and the rest of the natural world's peoples 6. poetic, luminous prose (an overused phrase but so well-deserved in this case) 7. motherhood in the broad sense, then YOU MUST READ IT.

How blessed we are by spring. The soft and humid air feels as if it is healing us of winter inside and out, and all the world gets busy again, going about its important work of building a home, finding a mate, raising a family...bursting from the seed, sharing one's gifts with the air and the earth and all that move upon it. Inspiring even for this woman, who has somehow made it through to many, many Blossom Moons in her life. 

For winter's rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

—Algernon Charles Swinburne


  1. What a lovely post, Carmine. I'm so glad you are appreciating the springtime. I had heard that the north of MN had got snow just some days ago. Here it has yet to rain even; probably none till July; AC unit going in the window tomorrow. (I've got to get out of here.)
    You are very fortunate to have seen 2 easter bunnies for the price of one: but don't fall for their tricks in leaving behind what look like miniature chocolate eggs—I wouldn't trust them for that. Once bitten, twice shy.
    You are fortunate to have some squirrel visit you too. I like a good squirrel. And cardinals and red-winged blackbirds are favourites too. I can hear some birds in the trees here; they're probably singing for water.
    I still want to come up there this summer. Maybe I'll make it. I wonder where is a nice town or area in MN where there are trees and creatures and not as much noise and endless cars everywhere, and maybe a bit cheaper than the big city? My friends are driving up there in either May or June. Although I don't think I can ride so long in a vehicle, I'm tempted to have them take my few boxes of belongings and leave them with some relatives of their's; then I'll fly. But my arms will be tired though.

    1. Reifyn, I wonder if you'd like Duluth or Grand Marais? They are "up north," a bit quirky, down-to-earth and artsy, on the shores of Lake Superior with lots of beautiful state parks and wilderness areas. Or maybe Red Wing, a historic river town.... Yes, frosts come late as May 15 here, and later than that in the northern part of the state. It is way cheaper to live here than on the coasts, but more costly than in states that don't provide decent social services--MN is a blue state but farm/hunting country is more conservative than the liberal cities and college towns, just like everywhere I suppose.

    2. Thanks for the info Carmine—it's invaluable. At the moment I'd already looked a good deal at Duluth and I think it's on a very strong incline (hill) which may be a bit tough for me as hills & I don't get on like we once did. Cheap housing seems rare there,except in summer when all the students are off someplace. Grand Marais seems pretty fabulous to me—although they don't seem to actually have many rentals there—at least none mentioned in online sources I looked at. But it's certainly an art colony and with wild, windswept countryside, which I know I'd like. Red Wing of course is where all the world's red-winged blackbirds have originated; so when you see them in Minneapolis you know you are close to the original source, and that they are locally-produced birds. I like a good red-winged blackbird, and now I know where they come from.

  2. I have to read that book. I adored another one introduced to me by you, "Kissed by a Fox".

    So glad to hear things are warm once more. I know... the sigh of relief, in comfort, in green and creatures and birdsong. Yes, those in the West (and South) just can't know (til... like me.. til they know).

    Enjoy spring's early songs.

    1. Oh, so glad you enjoyed KBAF! Inspiring, wasn't it?

      Things WERE warm. Now it's back in the 40s and raining, very Londony. Except without the consolations of London. Ah well, we grab a day here and there, soon it will unfurl fully and then will be the time of dancing.


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