Spring’s Mid-February Harbingers

I write these words and reflections on a damp Saturday afternoon (February 17, 2018). Yesterday’s dawn temperature, a balmy 65 degrees, yielded to showery and drizzly upper-40s by noon, courtesy of a cold frontal passage. This morning the front backed our way with more light rain and drizzle, dragged northward by a strengthening low pressure system tracking eastward through Tennessee and Kentucky. Yet another cool front will follow tonight. We are in the transition season — a tug-of-war between winter and spring, a competition that spring will ultimately win.

Over the past week, up to two-dozen hooded mergansers have returned to Big Blue Lake, on schedule with what we observed last February. They’ll depart before March exits. Robins have found dawn voice. Killdeer have joined the robins, and continue to call day-long as they fly over the water and from shore to shore. We’ve seen two pairs of bluebirds at our feeders. And finally, the seminal spring bellwether, the voice of spring peepers, has sounded.

Spring travels northward at approximately 100 miles per week; and it ascends vertically at some 800 feet per week. I noticed our native red maple flowers opening (giving the entire tree a reddish cast) just two days ago. I took all of the photos in this post within the past hour.

I suppose that last week red maple had opened flowers in the Birmingham vicinity. Next week we could see the same evidence near Nashville, Tennessee.

Lawns are sprouting wild onions, shooting slender, tubular sprouts above the still quite-dormant Bermuda grass.

I’ve seen lyre-leaved rock cress’ bashful, pale white flowers and delicate, deeply-lobed basal greens (below) in disturbed areas along with whitlow-grass and chickweed, likewise with non-showy tiny white blooms. These are the early spring vanguard; spring’s full frontal assault will follow in two-to-four weeks.

Ornamental flowering plants won’t be long — daffodils are poking leaves and swelling buds through mulch. Our Rose Creek Abelia are sporting new leaves.

Pete Seeger penned the lyrics to Turn! Turn! Turn!, adopting them from Ecclesiastes:

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

And so it is with our seasonal ebbs and flows, whether in Alabama’s Tennessee River Valley, along the Chena River in Fairbanks, Alaska, or near the Ashuelot River in southwestern New Hampshire, all places, among others, where we have lived. Likewise, we have metaphorical seasons of our lives, romances, friendships, and enterprises. Nature prompts us to observe and learn from the patterns, purpose, and signals.

Learn so that you might harness Nature’s wisdom and power. Recall, too, what Leonardo da Vinci observed half-a-millennium ago:

“Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.” The seasons of all things abide by lessons of meaning, merit, and purpose… as should your life, vocation, and avocation.