Within the Nature of Being

Was it the continued blight of whiteness, or of the now, when the golden light of a sunset sets off a beautiful contrast of the spiny tendrils of a delicate pasque flower? Perhaps it’s the soft pastels of a leafing tree framed by the hardness of old gray timber? Had the winter itself caused the soul to enter something akin to the windless doldrums that plagued sailors on seemingly endless blue seas?

I can’t recall the exact moment (day, month or time of day) when I grew tired of winter as the continuous, never ending snow storms continued to overwhelm us with piles upon piles of whiteness, drifts upon drifts here on my little farm; of window views no longer than a quarter of a typical city block … or from where I sit, just past the bird feeder tree.

Rest assured, a winter weariness happened. Those winterish doldrums. The wearing down of the soul. Truth be told, I may have even been late to the game even after considering all the complete “white out” days that were piled on top of one another just like those piles and drifts lingering on the prairie outside.

4.20.2019 pasque10

A few days after the snow melted, the golden hues from a sunset enlightened the pasque flowers on a nearby hillside.

Then came the melt. High waters still flood the lowlands, and the Minnesota River, and some of the tributaries remain out of bank. For a few weeks a stream, complete with a small riffle, cut across my lawn coming off the upper prairie. Both retaining ponds were overflowing, and the stream ran from the prairie pond to the one in the grove. In brief moments of domestic creativity, images of a small bridge that would take a certain woodworker over the stream to his workshop came to mind, and the only sensible reason why it wasn’t constructed was in knowing just how silly and out of place it would look once the stream of water stopped and the grass greened.

The oncoming Spring nearly exploded upon us. One afternoon a stop was made on a nearby hilltop typically blessed with the first rush of pasque flowers, one of the first of the appearing spring flowers. Remnants of snow still coated the hill, yet, amazingly, a few pasque blossoms popped up through the snow. A day or two later the snow was gone and the hillside was blanketed with one of the most impressive pasque blooms in years.

This was my anecdote to all the reports from friends and neighbors who gushed upon returning from the desert states with reports and photographic proof of the incredible desert blooms … for we had one here, and interestingly, few seemed to make the trek to the hillsides for this bloom of our own. Our very own native prairie bloom.

3.30.2019 impoundment10

A rapid melting provided huge flocks of white geese with “ghosts” of wetlands in which to rest.

Now we await the poking up of the equally delicate prairie smoke. The leaves are emerging from the mashed duff, and before long the stalks with the star-shaped, pointy pink blossoms will inch ever skyward. Like the pasque flowers, these are of small stature and rather defiant to the forces around them. Fortunately both arrive in dormant prairies to give us hope, beauty and color far different from the whiteness of this past long winter.

Evidence of spring arrives on a higher plane, too, and in equally delicate doses of wonder. Trees are budding, and in some species, even leafing. A drive through the hardwoods on the edge of the glacial shield this past weekend provided ample evidence of our seasonal change. In some ways, this is my favorite time to visit the wooded hills and ravines. There is almost an audible whisper of, “I’m back!” Yes, there is color, and for some tree species, the colors are reminiscent of autumn colors. Reds. Pastel yellows and greens. All poking through gray and white woody trunks.

It’s about time.

5.2.2019 Grotto3

At a small island rookery in Fergus Falls, cormorants worked to build nests.

It seems most of the feathered migrations have by now flown through, and it was a magnificent display all around. Huge, sky-blocking flocks of snow geese graced many of the ghostly prairie potholes … ponded waters where in a few weeks crops of corn will replace winged migrations. Now the white pelicans are seen floating in the wetlands and pothole lakes, those telltale bumps of avian sex still on their beaks.

Along the edges of rivers, colorful warblers are darting through, and those birds that grace us with their momentary seasonal homes are busy building nests. A stop at Grotto Park in Fergus Falls, on the edge of the glacial ridge, paired up snowy egrets and cormorants collect sticks to build nests. Then come the eggs, and later, a new generation of life … not unlike that of the pasque flowers and prairie smoke. Not unlike the leafing within the woods.

5.4.2019 anoka2

Spring often offers soft pastels of a leafing trees framed by the hardness of old gray timber.

Spring is in full theatre, and we couldn’t be happier regardless of where we fit within this nature of being. Perhaps if we looked close enough we would notice we, too, are revealing, if not boasting, changes of color within our collective souls. Those fresh, new colors of spring. I wouldn’t be surprised, for it’s May for God’s sake!

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About John G. White

Somewhat retired after a long award-winning career in newspapers (Wisconsin State Journal, Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Denver Post and a country weekly, the Clara City Herald). Free lance photographer and writer with credits in more than 70 magazines. Editor with various Webb Publishing magazines in St. Paul, and a five year stint as editorial director at Miller Meester Advertising.

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