The longest winter

This month has not offered any of those glorious teaser days that bring the scent of spring, something to carry you through the remaining days of frost, freeze, and most likely ice storms. Just temperatures hovering around low to mid 30s, so the snow has been very gradually disappearing.

March 22
It was in the mid fifties today, so this was the first moderately Spring-like day of 2014. I wore my spring coat for the first time. Halfway through my walk, I saw two turkey vultures sunning themselves on a chimney. It was exciting to see them, and I got a lot of nice pictures. However, something went wrong in the upload to my computer, and I lost most of them. Here are the two that weren’t damaged.

big_bird_2big_bird_1Thanks to the grudging thaw of the past couple of weeks, I was able to walk through the back yard at the end of my walk for the first time since the series of big snow storms. The turf was soggy and felt vulnerable under my feet.

Hope springs: Sky and salt tide lines 2014

Feb. 11moonrise_2_12_2014

February is the bleak nubbin of winter. With holiday glitter a tarnished memory, snow and slush both present and predicted, it’s a granite time that winnows the New Englanders from the snowbirds.

And yet, the signs are there. Days are longer and the sky is somehow softer. My sunset walk is under candy pink and purple clouds, quite unlike the steely crystal skies of January. At the top of the steep road I call Cardiac Hill I’m stopped in my tracks by the sight and sound of 50 or more robins fluttering and chirping in a suburban yard.

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The nip in the air recently prompted me to get out the camera and record the moment when the garden shifts into transition. I’m no botany expert, but I can almost feel the life processes of the plants contract and turn towards dormancy.

Grasses are wonderful in the fall. Here’s the new one that replaced the giant Pampas grass. It’s very delicate, and I think it shows up well against the purple basil.

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Environment matters

It’s amazing to me how plants adapt to varying conditions. I think of one little pink weed, a prairie native, that can grow like a tiny alpine flower or a good-sized bush. It would grow just a few inches tall with eensy-weensie magenta flowers if it was in the lawn where it got mowed, or where the soil was very poor and dry. In rich moist soil it became a five-foot tall monster covered in great masses of bloom. Alas, it died out from my yard a few years ago, and I miss it.

Here’s another example. In full sun, the leaves of this plant have a bluish cast and are quite stiff, almost leathery.

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Mossy, lichen-y love

New England is a great place for mossy rocks. So common here that we scarcely notice them, I am told they are sometimes imported at great expense to regions with a less fortunate geology, history, and climate. (Yes, I know that lots of other places are very nice, but I am an unapologetic lover of my home state. Massachusetts is simply the best place in the world, IMO.)

If you’ve ever been curious about the stone walls you see everywhere, including in the middle of the woods, I recommend this FAQ from the Stone Wall Initiative at UConn. is another good place to learn a little more about the stone walls of Massachusetts.
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Missing snow

Hardly any snow fell this winter, and spring is almost here. We had a very unusual storm in October that did a lot of damage because it dumped heavy wet snow on trees still holding their leaves. Beyond that, we”ve had only a couple of inches here and there.

I call this kind of winter a Philadelphia winter because it has been chilly, gray, dark, and snowless. Most people are happy about this, and I understand why. The majority sentiment about snow can be summed up as “good riddance!”

Not me. I feel cheated by this winter’s mildness,  and it’s not because I’m an avid skier or snowboarder.
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Sometimes it’s all about the sky

When I was a teenager, I vowed not to be like a lot of the older people I observed who never seemed to raise their eyes up higher than eye level, or maybe the top of a person’s head. It’s as though they forgot that we all walk around under the cosmic light show we call the sky, and the weather.

Sometimes it’s all about the sky. And bare branches.

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