February was unusually warm and calm in the New York Finger Lakes, a quiet time for walks with friends on dry forest trails. The birds knew better than to sing love songs that early. I trusted them and knew cold would return.
By late February, the Anemoi, Greek Gods of Wind, grew bored with the quiet. The north wind Boreas and western Zephyrus blew hard to make up for lost time and pummeled the forest with sideways snow and broken branches. My hill only got a few inches of snow at a time, but the wind was unrelenting.
In early March, trails lead me through a world of damp tree trunks, slippery snow, and gray skies. Still, I notice spring’s subtle presence.
When the veiled sun breaks through thick clouds, I cock my head back to look overhead instead of looking south. The solar angle changed dramatically during the last month, and as the angle of sunlight changed, the days grew longer. When evening skies clear, the sun sets on the western horizon at 6 pm instead of close to 4:30 pm, the time it set on Winter Solstice. It disappears over the horizon on the north side of the pine and oak forest down the hill rather than on the south side where it touched down in December.
Heading home through an open field, I watch red-tailed hawks sail on the winds. Near the back porch, a gray mourning dove couple fluffs their feathers for warmth. Juncos, chickadees, and nuthatches land on the feeder to grab a seed without lingering. At the top of spruce trees, red cardinals call out, and I hear new bird songs I didn’t hear last week. At my office window, my young dog Disco watches downy and hairy woodpeckers at a suet feeder. She focuses like a child watching Donald Duck cartoons.
In February when temperatures were in the 50s, bluebirds claimed nesting boxes near the house before cold winds drove them back to the forest. I know they’re nearby, waiting for the next warm days.
Green ferns emerge in the forest. Lilac buds are red and plump and magnolia buds turn fuzzy fat promising an April extravaganza. Despite another cold day, small signs assure me spring is coming.
It won’t be long.
Just to make fun of my spring dreams, I got 5 inches of wet snow on my hill yesterday and the long-term weather forecast calls for a cold March. Has weather been wild in your world? In mid March, it’s usual to have snow and intense wind in the Finger Lakes, but I hope a late season will save fruit and flower blooms from a killing frost. For a photo of the 12 months of nature’s change see A Cycle of Bountiful Beauty. For a post about winter travel (and why I prefer staying home this time of year), see I thought I Could.