Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spring has come at last ...

The temperature is nearly 50F, and it finally feels like spring today. There is only a tiny patch of snow left in the backyard and the grass is greening nicely.

I wandered around to clean up. We lost one limb of the huge white pine in the northeast corner and a couple of dozen smaller branches. When I moved the deadfalls, I saw a small cluster of nascent lily-of-the valley plants close to the trunk.

What a curious plant that is. One legend says that the flowers formed from the tears of the Virgin Mary, which sounds sweet and ethereal until you realize that the entire plant is highly toxic ... and what are we to make of that? Another curious thing about the flowers is that their odor is intensely attractive to mammalian sperm. This complicates the early spring delight of seeing new life so much that I decide to stop thinking lest I get a headache.

The pile of dried twigs and branches in the garden is just about ready for burning. Today or tomorrow I'll go to the town police and fire station and get a permit. After my little bonfire is done I'll dig the ashes into the soil and plant tomatoes, basil, eggplant, chilis, zucchini, etc.

The rhubarb plant owns an entire corner of the plot, and returns year after year. It is a mixed blessing. It is a beautiful plant, and tasty, but it is very high in oxalic acid and having had kidney stones once, I am determined to never have them again.

Birches with crows

In back of the drab cinderblock building, across a small pot-holed asphalt parking lot, there is a small grove of trees, maple saplings and a mass of vines and shrubbery. The skeletal look of the trees is made more intense by two old birch trees with bone white bark.

The sky is gray, the overcast creates steely reflections in the puddles. I toss my gym bag in the back of the car and go sit on the hood to breathe and relax for a moment. I look for signs of life, but there is nothing to see. There is no green haze of budding leaves nor yellow mist of forsythia blossoms yet, just somewhat globular masses of leafless vines and bushes that look as if some gigantic cat has found a ball of rough yarn.

The birches are grim. They are old and thick, but look like they're ready to die. Not only are they bony, they are broken. Thick limbs hang from splintered crotches, an ossuary of severed twigs and branches litter the ground beneath them.

There is a sudden movement in the tree to the right. a black shadow detaches from one of the high branches, swooping down nearly to the ground then back up into the other tree where it lands ... knocking another shadow off the branch. The displaced crow freefalls momentarily then spreads its wings turns and swoops with a few unnecessary flourishes into the first tree, where it sits croaking softly, before launching itself back to knock its aggressor off the branch.

The two crows continue this for some time. It's obviously play, since there's none of the harsh abrupt attack and calls that you would expect in a territorial contest. It's more a game of tag, or king-of-the-castle.

After a while they move to trees that are further away, and shortly after that they disappear into a denser clump of trees in the distance. I get into my car and drive away.