In Spring, Life Goes On

Sometimes, it seems, everything happens at once, and one is overwhelmed. Last week in Nashville there was too much rain, right now there is way too much oil in the Gulf and there is too much debt in Greece. A few months ago, right here in Maryland, we had too much snow and, more recently the pollen count was off the charts.

If there is one thing that I want too much of it is springtime because it never lasts very long. Still, each year I hope for a slowly unfolding, drawn-out spring and the time to enjoy it. It didn’t happen this year. Multiple heat waves made early spring leap forward into summer.

–One day the redbuds were beginning to bloom and all of the big trees were just beginning to sprout little green buds. That day I wanted to put the season on hold. But within a few short days, everything came bursting out. The early spring green was off the trees, the color having turned to dust that got all over everything.

My cool-season crops were stressed. The spinach, arugula, mustard greens and radishes all bolted together. Last fall, I lovingly sowed my crop. In late winter I dutifully put in a second crop. This approach is supposed to give me plenty from winter to early June, with a bumper crop in May. Now the spinach is pale, with tiny leaves and little flavor. I am faced with the minor tragedy of store-bought greens. But life goes on.

As far as I can tell, spring bird migration has been unaffected. The birds arrived on time to find the trees mostly leafed out. Did they mind? Probably not. But it made it harder for us hoping for a clear view of a migrating redstart or scarlet tanager.

Under ideal conditions, the season of the early-spring woodland wildflowers is so short that they are referred to as spring ephemerals. Fortunately, the heat did not drastically shorten their season. So our annual wildflower pilgrimage was successful. We saw plenty of trilliums, wild geraniums and yellow lady slippers in the nearby faraway of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We saw a few birds there too, cerulean warbler and rose-breasted grosbeak among them.

Closer to home, we sought and found at Jug Bay Wetland Sanctuary a stand of showy orchis, a native orchid with white and purple flowers. The dogwoods were already in bloom. We heard parula warblers and a blue-gray gnatcatcher and got an excellent look at a pair of Louisiana water thrushes. They were wading in the shallow, swampy end of Pindell Creek. They are a kind of warbler, though not very colorful; they have an eye stripe and streaky breasts and sides. Like most warblers, they winter in the tropics and migrate to North America to breed.

At home, Karyn has proven a patient and wise gardener. Her backyard native plant beds have come into their own with blue phlox, blood root, columbine and wild ginger among many others. Something called Green and Gold, now in bloom, has turned out to be an excellent native ground cover. Among the birds we encountered in the yard are common yellowthroat, parula warbler; and catbirds are back.

So much good stuff helps take one’s mind off too much bad stuff.