Spring here on the west coast in northern California sprung some time ago. The verb to spring isn’t exactly the best descriptor of it in this mild, maritime climate, however. Emerge might be better, like western coltsfoot (a flowering plant in the aster family) and the horsetail which seem to be able to push up through anything including asphalt. Spring here, seems to emerge softly out of the middle of winter or else flow forth, continuous and subtle. Winter and spring merging as one before spring emerges out of it. Pacific chorus frogs are the very definition of this: they started singing with the heavy rains of fall and I can still hear them singing their nightly chorus now months latter.
Having grown up in upstate New York, where seasons are distinct and often sudden,I have been slow to catch on to the minute differences in the seasons here. With a temperature that doesn’t vary much throughout the year and conifer dominated forests that are ever-green, I have to notice subtler details to indicate season. Wind direction, rain fall, the return of salmon, an the angle of daylight all tell me something important about seasons.
Here there is no great profusion of wildflowers (except perhaps out on the coastal dunes where invasive beach grass has not take over) as I remember years ago living in Texas, where the roadsides were a riot of bluebonnet, paintbrush and blanket flower, but still there are flowers here. On a recent hike in old-growth forest, I was delighted to see the subtle, brown and green flowers of the fetid adder’s tongues nearing their end and western trillium, with its triad of showy white blooms, just beginning theirs. Milkmaids, redwood violets and western coltsfoot added their color to the forest floor.
Here at the old homestead, signs of spring abound and have been for a month or more. The elderberries were the first to leaf-out, followed by the red-flowering currant, the gooseberry, blueberries, alder and now the fruit trees are just starting to show signs of waking up. On the animal front, the chicken’s rate of egg laying has picked up from a mid-winter slump, and on nearby farms (where Kristin is working) lambs, kids, and piglets are being born.
At the same time as all these signs of spring, the Aleutian geese are starting to stage here in vast numbers. In the mornings and evenings we hear there high cries and see their long skeins and Vs leaving no trace as they traverse the sky. To me they are the transcendence of season for they are of both winter and spring. Here in this small corner of the world, the Aleutians come here at the very end of winter to stage and fatten up before their long migration north to the islands that are their namesake. Suddenly there are thousands upon thousands of them in and around Humboldt Bay and I wondering when they all came and from where. Their numbers are so vast, that they define this time of year, this season for me more than any other plant or animals. And just as suddenly as they had appeared, one day soon they will all get their mysterious cue from nature and start their northward migration. In their absence, I will stand outside with my eyes gazing skyward and notice unequivocally that spring is almost gone and that summer is nipping at its heals.
The promise of summer to come – home grown veggies!
~written by David