Creatures Lead the Way

How’s your movie watching going?

Minus Superbowl, of course, movies and a fire have warmed creatures in our burrow most nights since last week’s Groundhog Movie Review.

But every since reading last week’s Sky Watch, All Hail the Returning Sun, I’ve seen evidence of the quickening — and with it signs of spring. February 5’s cross-quarter day is tickling me with hope. It’s hard to be gloomy when sunlight is flooding our hemisphere, promising us an hour more at each end of the day by the vernal equinox March 20.

A couple of 50-degree days have sent me outside to rake and sweep away a bit of winter’s detritus. That activity marks a quickening: it’s been months since I’ve done any outside chores other than bring in firewood. Clipping the dead stems of hens and chickens, I saw this year’s headstrong buds pushing through the soaked earth like baby Brussels sprouts. 

All the while, a saucy chickadee complained that I was blocking the birdfeeder. More birds made their appearances, mostly titmice, cardinals and sparrows plus a yellow-bellied sapsucker on the blue Atlas cedar. No new migrators showed up, but the usual crew was unusually frisky.

No matter how well you know spring, it always comes in surprising ways. So I’ve got to add two plus two to make four: just at the same time we’re preparing our Love Stories for this week’s Valentine’s issue, the birds are preparing to mate. Many blue herons return to Chesapeake Country to set up housekeeping each Valentine’s Day. The year I visited their preserve in Nanjemoy, snow covered the ground and the heron couples glided into their nests at the top of tall, dead loblolly pines.

You can read that February, 1994 story in our archives and remember the great ice storm that hit just then ( Still, the big birds were feeling the quickening.

So in celebrating Valentine’s Day this chill time of year, we’re following the lead of the birds. The bees, however, wait for warmer weather. 

These subtle changes call to mind another old favorite, Chesapeake Spring (1998) by artist and naturalist John Taylor, who lives in Mayo. It’s John’s contention that Chesapeake Country is a land of two seasons, spring and fall, with spring beginning on the winter solstice. In words and pictures, Chesapeake Spring follows the quickening. Here’s what John writes about the Valentine’s week:

February 11: Beverly Beach County Park

After a week of extreme cold, temperatures have moderated, reaching 50 degrees by midafternoon. Again the robins, still in the holy groves, were moved to song …

Offering even more promise for the coming spring were bright bits of blue that magically appeared on a grassy roadside: the diminutive flowers of speedwell …

As you read this week’s paper, I hope you’ll feel the quickening within your heart as our stories remind you of how it feels to fall in love.