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Indiana, United States
Debt free empty nesters...ready to stretch our wings. Life is good and we plan on making it even better. This blog is mostly about our trips to Vieques Puerto Rico, with a few odds and ends thrown in about our life after the mortgage.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

March thaw.....

We've all heard of the "January thaw",  but in this part of the country it's been as elusive as the Sand Hill  Cranes  that will  soon be announcing the arrival of spring as they return from their southern winter range. No, not a hint of a January thaw, nor a February thaw. It's taken March to finally break the frozen steel grip of what is becoming a common mid western winter. A mere two weeks ago we were enjoying low eighty degree days and low seventy degree nights in Vieques. My first day back at work was minus 14 degrees. So it was with great appreciation that today we enjoyed a 50 degree March thaw day.

One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring.
A cardinal, whistling spring to a thaw but later finding himself mistaken, can retrieve his error by resuming his winter silence.  A chipmunk, emerging for a sunbath but finding a blizzard, has only to go back to bed.  But a migrating goose, staking two hundred miles of black night on the chance of finding a hole in the lake, has no easy chance for retreat.  His arrival carries the conviction of a prophet who has burned his bridges.  - Aldo Leopold

I've read Aldo Leopold a lot. I have a couple  dog-eared copies of his Sand County Almanac. In it he espoused a "land ethic." I believe in what he said and we try to adopt it as a way of living our lives, ergo our focus on beach clean-up and the habitat on Vieques, and the world for that matter. But I'm  not going to veer off on a conservation tangent, although I would encourage all to read the book. I think I have seen copies on Amazon as low as $3.

No, it was what he wrote in the above quote about the whistling spring cardinal that got me thinking about him. Wanting to enjoy this 50 degree day I got out and took a walk on the property. It was then I noticed a change. Instead of hearing the raucous chatter of jays, they seem to dominate the winter here, I heard the cardinals and immediately felt that hint of spring in the air. The snow was beginning to melt away and finally, finally, there was some much needed, although faded and tired looking, green grass.

The mouse is a sober citizen who knows that grass grows in order that mice may store it as underground haystacks, and that snow falls in order that mice may build subways from stack to stack: supply, demand, and transport all neatly organized. To the mouse, snow means freedom from want and fear.-  A Sand County Almanac

I might have to disagree slightly with Aldo on that point. Because in my corner of the world it's the bluebird boxes that means freedom from fear for the mice. You see they like to make their way up into the nest boxes to winter. It's the ones that still have wooden poles that they are able to climb up into. I usually go about cleaning out the nest boxes in February in preparation for the Bluebirds arrival (they migrate from southern wintering grounds). But since February was totally inhospitable I delayed that task until today. And as usual I got startled by some enterprising field mouse who had taken up residence in one of the boxes:


If you look close you can see him hiding in the back. He was promptly evicted to the prairie grass, where mice belong.

As I got back into the woods there was still snow, although now melting and soft, so different from when last made my way back to the point. At that time it was frigid cold and walking along the path in the frozen snow was like walking on broken glass. But not now, it was soft and quiet.

Aldo had wrote about following a skunk track in the snow and wondering about what motivations drove the animal. I wasn't on the hunt for skunk tracks but did come upon what is a common site on our property, turkey tracks:



  

It was a regular interstate back towards the cabin.



The warm weather had, at least for the moment, tamed my pining for Vieques and finally you could breath in deep and not feel like you were being subject to a cryogenic freeze. 

What I was doing, unconsciously, was working off my NDD. Ever heard of that? Nature Deficit Disorder, aka "not getting your butt out of the house enough."

 A study published in 2010 in the Journal of Environmental Psychology showed that spending even just 20 minutes outside per day could boost energy levels. “Research has shown that people with a greater sense of vitality don’t just have more energy for things they want to do, they are also more resilient to physical illnesses,” Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and an author of the 2010 study.

I spent more than 20 minutes outside. It was nice to feel the sun and smell things that been hidden since last fall. I took a vantage point on the deck surveyed my horizon. There was a slight southwestern breeze and it made me think about a poem Frost wrote about wanting the winter to leave:

To the thawing Wind - Robert Frost

COME with rain, O loud Southwester!
Bring the singer, bring the nester;
Give the buried flower a dream;
Make the settled snow-bank steam;
Find the brown beneath the white;        
But whate’er you do to-night,
Bathe my window, make it flow,
Melt it as the ices go;
Melt the glass and leave the sticks
Like a hermit’s crucifix;        
Burst into my narrow stall;
Swing the picture on the wall;
Run the rattling pages o’er;
Scatter poems on the floor;
Turn the poet out of door.

On my way back I had one last nest box to clean out. It is out further in the grass and usually ends up with a pair of Bluebirds raising a clutch. This one has a metal pole holding it up so I wasn't expecting any mice in it. I wasn't expecting what I found either:



He hadn't been dead for too long. His feathers were still in perfect shape. I wondered what might have happened. We had set a record low just last week with some minus 5 degree lows. Like I've been saying the weather has been pretty darn bad for February and the beginning of March. This guy might have been just too early, I dunno. 



Although it saddened me to find this I took a moment to marvel at how beautiful their Cerulean feathers are, absolutely beautiful. I hope to see another one pick up the baton from this fallen jewel.


Emily Dickinson


“Hope” is the thing with feathers —
That perches in the soul —
And sings the tune without the words —
And never stops — at all —

And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard —
And sore must be the storm —
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm —

I've heard it in the chillest land —
And on the strangest Sea —
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb — of Me.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry about the early bird :-( but I'd have a hard time being the evil landlord (you must pay the rent! I can't pay the rent!) to that cute little field mouse!

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