This Crabapple in the front yard is a fantastic tree.The gorgeous hot pink blooms only last for a few days. They have faded now. Their life was short and glorious. For those few days this tree is a maelstrom of bee and flying insect activity. Even I can smell the delightful sweet perfume of the blossoms that lures the pollinators in. The bugs swirl and zip around above my head and and I can hear their wings buzzing. This tree is humming. The flowers have done their work. The insects have visited, fulfilling their part in the cycle of making new crabapple trees. I tried to capture a picture of a single bee, wasp, or bug, but they move so quickly I wasn’t able to. I will just have to remember and wait for next years frenzy. Spring is happening all around now, making me reflect on the changing of seasons that the authors we’ve discussed in class experienced. I am wondering what Annie Dillard’s Virginia mountains are sprouting this time of year. I’ve been thinking about the migration of birds, as more have arrived in the neighborhood, making me think of Aldo Leopold’s geese. And because I’ve been thinking of trees, I am reminded of Janisse Ray’s writing, I wonder what the pine forests and the wiregrass meadows are growing this spring in some small South Georgia sanctuary of nature. I feel more connected to nature this spring and can’t wait to see what blooms tomorrow.
The Daffodil might be the perfect blooming plant. Their blooms seem designed to delight. I have loved them since I was a child, and they still continue to surprise me with their incredible variety and beauty. I wait anxiously for the pointy leaf tips to burst through the top layer of dirt in late winter. These pasts few weeks, I went back daily to watch them emerge. Since I just read Annie Dillards’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, I was reminded of her thoughts on growth. She talks about “the pressure of birth and growth, the pressure that splits the bark of trees and shoots out seeds.” These daffodils definitely felt the pressure to grow. The shorter, smaller, early blooming varieties are faded now, but the others are still gorgeous. Daffodils grow from underground bulbs. After the blooms fade, the leaves continue to soak up sunshine and nutrients in preparation for next year’s blooms. Finally, the leaves fade and the bulbs remain hidden underground waiting for the right cues to emerge next year and begin again. This cycle of growth, death, and renewal makes connections to many of the works we have discussed in Environmental Lit. this semester. The daffodils are a pretty example of this cycle at work.
I had a great moment with these geese, who were flying north yesterday, in beautiful Cherokee County at my mother-in-law’s house. I couldn’t believe that I managed to hear and see them flying directly overhead, and I just so happened to be getting my husband’s phone from the car, so I took these photos with his camera.
The first photo I took just after I heard them coming and they appeared over the trees. The sounds they made talking back and forth to each other were unmistakable. I scrambled to get the camera ready in time to capture them. Honks of varied tone, depth, and complexity came from different directions and locations in the arrangement. They really seemed to be communicating with each other. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to see them after just reading Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. His descriptions of the geese as they return to Wisconsin’s lakes in March are great. He writes, “One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring.”
I realized as the chatter of the geese, which Leopold describes as “a general shouting by the onlookers of a vehement controversy,” swiftly moved through the sky that there were two groups of geese. They were on their way north to the thawing March lakes, maybe even Leopold’s Wisconsin lakes. I thought they were trying to merge and become a larger group or had possibly fallen apart and were trying to repair their perfect flight pattern. Maybe that was what all the communication was about. They moved so swiftly and were out of sight in a minute. I could still hear their calls to each other. Then after they were gone, I thought writing about that short moment and how it made me feel connected to the “geese that proclaim the seasons” that Leonard describes would be the perfect journal post for my Environmental Literature class. The timing for the reading assignment of A Sand County Almanac and the geese flying through Georgia was interesting.
There was a lot of bird activity in the backyard when the snow was starting to fall last week. This robin was one of many who seemed to be foraging for frozen food under the leaves. His camo is perfect, but some birds are just plain outrageous, like this cardinal, who was striking and beautiful against the brown woods and white snow.
I was happy to finally capture these two. They move around so fast. The woods here are full of all kinds of birds. I consider myself a very amateur birder. I have a list and am always on the lookout for birds I haven’t seen before. They are beautiful to look at, and I love listening to their songs. The woods are alive with bird conversations, if you have time to listen. Even though it was so cold, I stayed out listening and watching awhile.
My sweet husband gave me these beautiful roses for my birthday. I am thankfully enjoying their beauty and fragrance. It is amazing to me that I can enjoy these in the heart of winter. Lovely.
Back at UGA for Spring semester, although it is still very much winter now. Walking from downtown Athens, through gorgeous North campus, there is so much nature to be thankful for along the way. The huge, old trees towering over the manicured grass and planting beds. A pair of landscapers are planting pansies in a container next to the path. Even though the wind chill is blasting and there are many people about, I find a moment with nature here. I breathe a sigh and think of the time that has passed since these trees were young and all they have seen.
I regret that I didn’t discover The Founder’s Garden when I was first at UGA fifteen years ago. It is a lovely gem of semi-solitude sandwiched between the sighing bamboo along the path behind Park Hall, and the Founder’s House. I found a sweet spot on a bench facing the brick house and looking over the nearly bonsai size boxwood hedges. The short hedges are cut into a simple labyrinth pattern and I couldn’t help walking around the paths and gazing at the sundial. I sat for awhile in quiet and relative solitude until a few people walked the labyrinth while talking on their phones.
Both of these observations are natural, but not “in the woods”, so I decided to finally finish raking my backyard. I have lots of huge old oaks and hickories and stubbornly refuse to get a powered leaf blower and instead rake by hand to enjoy the woods around me. I was enjoying the sound of the crunchy leaves, watching the squirrels, and letting being outside, alone, release my mind from all the stress that can accumulate. That’s the best part of being in nature for me, its ability to clear the clutter of the day-to-day and allow me to relax and focus on the present. Then, the not so distant as I thought neighbor started his chainsaw, and I was brought back from that peaceful feeling of being a kid walking through my backyard mountains in North Carolina. I will take nature where I can find it and hope to visit a place further from civilization soon to better enjoy the natural beauty we are blessed with.