On a frosty morning, it’s hard to say, “This is the last frost.” And such was the case on Monday, April 12. It was 30ºF, -1ºC. But I feel safe to proclaim that April 12 was the last freeze of this season. It’s almost summer like today, and freezing mornings have moved far north with the swans and snow geese.
Hearing Canada geese at the pond yesterday was a surprise. They are loud. The pair did not stay long. The ducks weren’t bothered by the much larger birds. The Canada geese were just as loud on their way out, honking as they flew overhead.
Seeing wood ducks waddle across the driveway early in the morning a few days ago was a surprise too. They were after the scratch the birds drop from the bird feeders. The wood ducks were by this morning too. Which means they may have a nest in a tree stump nearby.
A surprise this morning when I went out to the cabin to make tofu was seeing the fruiting plum trees in full bloom. Last year the plums produced a bounty of sweet plums. Hopefully they will this year too.
An old nest from last year remains in a young alder by the pond. Soon it will be hidden by new leaves. I’ve walked by this tree all winter and never noticed the nest. Or have I seen it before and forgot about it. Perhaps that is the joy of going senile. You can be surprised by the same thing over and over again. Will some bird use the nest again? It will be interesting to see.
Each year, the blooming cherry puts on a different show. Some years the tree is a cloud of white flowers. Other years the rains knock so many blossoms off, it looks bedraggled. This year it is blooming with a thick carpet of blossoms on the ground below it. A blustery day last week sent a blizzard of flowers falling to the ground. The deep snow underneath the tree is too beautiful to walk on.
With today’s sunshine and tomorrow’s forecast for a sunny day, the tree should be at its peak tomorrow.
A series of trivial events put me on Bow Hill Road at the spot at 4:12 p.m. this afternoon where a large flock of Snow Geese crossed overhead on their way north. First, I forgot to take some mail with me when I made deliveries this morning. So I had to bicycle down to the post office in the afternoon.
I would have passed by the spot earlier and missed the Snow Geese, but the tires on my bicycle were low, so I had to pump air into them.
A few other forgettable events delayed me a minute here, a minute there. But not so much that I didn’t have the time to stop when I heard the Snow Geese approaching. The Bow Post Office closes at 4:30 p.m. However, I was within minutes of the post office, so I had the time to stop and enjoy the sight of the Snow Geese leaving. Was this their final flight out of the Skagit Valley? I don’t know. But in the direction they were flying, there’s no flat land to land until the other side of the Chuckanuts.
The peculiar thing about Snow Geese is the meandering threads they form in the sky when they fly. They don’t make the perfect V formations of Canada Geese. They fly in such numbers that their meandering lines can stretch for miles.
And I would have missed the spectacle if I had remembered to take the mail with me this morning.
The problem with buying graded eggs is that you’ll never run across an egg like this in the supermarket. The trick would be to breed a variety of chickens that consistently lays double yolk eggs like this.
This morning, flocks of swans, flying north, flew overhead. I could hear them coming, honking out of sight, until the burst into view. During the winter months when they are in the valley, they usually fly about in small groups of two to five or seven. And they’re usually in a single line. But when they take to the skies for a long haul, that’s when they fly in V formation.
I keep hoping they’ll fly by on their way north, to say one last, “Goodbye.” Today they did.
Though if I were a swan and I saw that the cherry trees were about to bloom, I’d hang around a few days to enjoy them.
This is what it looks like on the other side. On the other side of what? On the other side of the year where nights are longer than days. This far north, we are now on the side of the year where days are longer than nights.
There are other ways to divide the year into two. You have the time of the year when the days are getting longer and the time of the year when the nights are getting longer. These methods divide the year into equal halves.
Here in the Skagit Valley you could also divide the year into the time when there are swans, and the time when there are no swans. There are just a few swans here and there. Soon we will be in the time of year when there are no swans. But all is not hopeless, weeping and gnashing of teeth, sackcloth and ashes. We may be slipping into the time of year when there are no swans flying around, but as it is the time of year when the days are longer than the nights, joy and happiness abounds.
A more extreme division of the year is the time of year when there are cherry buds and blossoms, and the time of year when there are not. If I could pick the time of year, no the day I die, it would be a day of blue skies, puffy clouds, and cherry trees in full bloom. Wheel me out underneath a blooming cherry tree on a sunny day and let that be the last thing I see, the fragrance of cherry blossoms the last thing I breathe, the buzzing of bees in the cherry blossoms the last thing I hear.
March is in its pink and yellow mood. Pink plum blossoms entice hummingbirds to visit. We watched one hover from one plum blossom to another. What does plum blossom nectar taste like? It’s be nice to have a hummingbird tongue to find out, a little retractable appendage at the tip of your tongue you could extend and enjoy what the hummingbirds enjoy when they dart from flower to flower.
The muddy winter fields have turned into carpets of brilliant yellow. I don’t think this is what daffodils had in mind when they evolved to produce showy, yellow flowers. Fields of daffodils in bloom mean that fields of tulips will be in full bloom soon. Then, March will be a riot of colors.
I wouldn’t fault someone for doing nothing but watching the clouds all day long. On my way to the post office, the clouds dangled intriguingly in the southern sky. And twenty minutes later, they same clouds, in the same spot, had transformed into an enormous ring around the sun.
If clouds can pull a feat like that in twenty minutes, imagine all the wonderful things you’d see if you watched them all day long. You’d never get bored.
Spending an afternoon gardening with ducks releases more stress than a season’s worth of therapist sessions. There are too many therapists, not enough ducks in people’s lives.
Duck’s feet are captivating with their intricate patterns. I could see a duck saying, “She had a pretty bill, wonderful colors on her feathers, but it was the patterns on her feet that did it for me.”
Spring is unfolding. The sun is moving north, the days are getting longer. The swans are fattening up to fly north, gathering the strength to take off and maybe never come back. Any week now, when I go down into the valley they will be gone. If they’d only fly by to let me know they are on their way north, it would mean a lot. But I mean nothing to them. They will never come say good bye to me. And they will never know how much they mean to me.
The crocus and daffodils are opening. The first of so many flowers to come.
Moonlit clouds at night show how fleeting things are. Everything changes second by second. Every time I venture out, enough things change so that I may as well be traveling down the road I’ve traveled for years as if it were the very first time.
I run into so many mysteries, at times I wish I had an office full of private investigators I could send out to solve these puzzles. Not too long ago I was biking from the Bow Post Office to Allen and saw Brussels sprouts along the side of the road. Not just one or two, but several miles of them, one, two, or three every so often. Where did they come from? A modern Hansel and Gretel dropping Brussels sprouts as they walked along so they could find their way home? Naughty children in a car, tossing Brussels sprouts out of a grocery bag so they wouldn’t have to eat them?
The most likely explanation is that they fell off a truck hauling a harvest of them, only there are no fields of Brussels sprouts nearby. How many detectives would it take to solve the mystery? What would the people who lived along Chuckanut Drive say when someone knocks on their door to ask, “When did you first see the Brussels sprouts on the road?” They would want to hire their own detective to find out why this mysterious person appeared at their door asking about Brussels sprouts.
Most of the mysteries I encounter will stay mysteries forever. Maybe unsolved mysteries are the cause of old age dementia. Perhaps unsolved riddles keep piling up in the brain until it short circuits. One mystery was solved today. I saw the first Robin of the season hopping about. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen the first Robin of spring. It’s as exciting as ever.
A soft snow puts spring on pause and turns the lane into a poem.
Snow covered branches turn the forest into a modern abstract canvas. Though is it modern art? People thousands of years ago saw these very shapes and forms.
Snow turns the pile of discarded tires some thoughtless person threw away in the dead of night into something beautiful for a day or two. Who do you call to get rid of thirty truck tires tossed onto a vacant lot? Who has thirty truck tires? It’s a mystery with possible connections to desperate and shady characters I’d rather not meet. Maybe someone has whispered something in your ear about these very tires.
Someday in the future, we’ll be able to take a photo with our phones and it will be able to analyze the DNA it sees on such tires instantly and tell us everyone who ever touched the tires. But will we want to know?
Every time I make a tofu delivery to the Anacortes Food Co-op, I look forward to the trip home. What will I get to see this time? A few weeks ago I discovered a spot along Padilla Bay where snow geese congregate.
Yesterday panoramas of blue, winter sky, clouds and mountains made me stop a number of times to pause and enjoy the view.
The ducks seem to enjoy this morning’s bright sunshine and blue skies as much as I do. Spring is fast approaching. Something was different this morning. I realized it was light and not yet seven. Just a handful of days before, it was still dark at seven.
As tragic as this pandemic is, one thing I will miss when we get to the other side are the clear pandemic skies. Every sunny day, there is hardly the scar of a contrail in the skies. So this is what the skies looked like for millions of years before we started flinging thousands of jets across them.
It is that time of year when fields become vast lakes. The lakes appear to be permanent landmarks. But when the winter rains end, the lakes will become fields again. In the meantime the temporary lakes are beautiful to look at.
At today’s end these beautiful clouds took over the full sky for just a short time. Wow! Tragedy may be all around us, but earth can’t turn off its beauty.
On cool, misty days, low clouds can barely rise above the valley floor. Are they just too lazy or tired to float up above the mountains? Or do they enjoy the feel of the tree tops tickling their bellies?
This time of year there is never a dry moment in the woods, something the mushrooms relish. Everywhere toadstools and mushrooms push their caps above the soft forest floor.
There are so many mushrooms feeding on this log, if I close my eyes and listen, I could probably hear them eating and commenting to each other on how the log tastes.
But every so often, the sun breaks through to remind us that the sky is still blue above the clouds. Spring is coming. Actually this year, it feels like spring is rushing in.
The last few weeks have shown how dangerous believing in fairy tales can be. Not seeing what is real, not accepting it, will lead you far astray. There are many fairy tales about how this wonderful universe came to be. They have their charms, and can soothe. But the truth is still unknown, which makes it more mysterious.
I wonder who appreciates nature more. Those who believe in these creation myths, or those who accept that it has been a long, laborious, excruciatingly difficult trial and error experiment, and that for something as lovely as a swan to exist, took millions upon millions upon millions of years. I am inclined to think that those who realize how much time it took, and how conditions had to be perfectly right, for something as lovely as a swan to exist, appreciate nature more than those who believe in fairy tales of mythical beings waving a magic wand and bringing everything into existence. If it happened that way once, it really doesn’t matter if we destroy it. Some being will just wave a wand and recreate it all.
But when you realize all the steps it took for something as lovely as a swan to fly overhead, and how there are no other places within billions and billions of miles from us where you can watch such magnificent birds glide over you, then you realize how precious they are. What a gift they are, and how horrific it would be to cause them all the vanish.
On Saturday the sun looked like the moon through the clouds. It’s been a very mild winter so far. Some years, the pond is frozen fast this time of year. Not this year. There is still the rest of January and February to go through, so who knows, a cold snap could still bring about a blanket of soft, powdery snow, and hard ice sealing the pond.
How all of us living beings are made is remarkable. And all the instructions for making something as complex as us, exists in every cell in our body, some 30 trillion cells, 30 trillion copies of our blueprint, in our body. It boggles the mind. And it’s not a fairy tale. It takes over 3 billion base pairs to describe our entire genome. If you would write it down and try to read it all, well good luck reading all that. And yet we have trillions of copies of those instructions in us. When you investigate how things are, you come up with explanations that are far more interesting and marvelous than fairy tales.
This morning’s sky was on fire. It turned the pond into a vermillion pool. What did the ducks think of it? They have very good color vision. Were they dazzled by the brilliant hue on the pond?
Who knows. They seemed more interested in breakfast than the burning sky.
I saw a clear sign of spring. Daffodils shooting out of the ground. I don’t know how they do it, but each year they sneak up on me. I never catch them just breaking the surface. By the time I see their shoots, they’re lifting their flower buds high above their shoulders. They are very sneaky flowers.
Between the steady rains, the sun almost crawls through the winter skies. Almost, but not quite. Bright, golden spells of glimmering gold light appear for a few minutes before the next band of rain rolls in.
This time of year, the clouds hug the mountains more than not. Some days the clouds reach the ground and hug me. If you don’t mind getting wet, it’s a playful time of year. Clouds are always nearby to play silly games with you.
When I was a child, I was told that this was all made in just 6 days. It is much more satisfying to know that it has taken over 4 billion years for this earthly paradise to create this extraordinary, incredible, magical special place for me and you. There is nothing like this paradise we live in for billions and billions of miles around. When you know it’s taken that long for these forests, mountains, and clouds which bring so much joy to become the way they are now, you want to take much more care of it. I don’t want to have to start over from scratch and wait another 4 billion years for this paradise to be made again. Do you?