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Posts Tagged ‘spring’

Cotton candy, ocean breakers, dark stallions rearing up in terror–clouds bring so many different images to mind. We took our usual walk the other day–husband and I, along with our faithful black Lab, for whom walks are the most exciting thing in the world next to dinner and playing frisbee. The sky was typical Oregon spring/late winter–a kaleidoscope of whites, blues, and ever-changing shades of gray.

I brought along my camera and made my patient husband–and not-so-patient dog–wait while I snapped pictures of the dancing clouds overhead. “I have to share this with my faithful blog readers,” I explained. “They’ll both be waiting for more photos.”

As I walked, I tried to come up with words to describe the clouds as they shifted and changed color, alternately hiding and revealing the bright blue skies above. The sky so big and wide and amazing. But you know what they saw about a thousand words. So I think I’ll just post some of the pictures and hope you enjoy them. I love watching clouds–it’s definitely better than watching television!

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I went out to prune the raspberries—an annual February ritual—cutting out the old wood that bore last summer’s berries and gently bending this year’s stalks between the wires. I still needed to tie the longer ones down, but something distracted me. What was that on top of the old wooden post at the end of the berry bushes?

I moved closer to discover a miniature forest of lichens and moss covering the top of the post. Tufts of spring green moss with tiny brown threads coming up holding what I assumed to be spores. Piles of wavy green with pale green trumpets rising straight up from the middle. And pouring down the sides, curly white (and gray underneath) patches, like crumpled wrapping paper torn and strewn about the post. I went on to examine the other posts. Each carried its own special garden of lichens.

Raspberries forgotten, I raced inside for my camera. I spent the next several minutes trying my best to capture the tiny world atop the posts and wrap it into little boxes of beauty.

Nature always amazes me, most of all in the rich detail seen in even the smallest organisms. Whether in a chickadee, a swelling bud on the plum tree, or a tiny forest of lichen, the complexity—and the beauty—is more than I can even imagine.

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Arenaria macrophylla

Arenaria macrophylla. I saw this little wildflower on our hike yesterday. Small clumps grew here and there next to rocks or Douglas firs. Green spiky leaves and those little white stars of flowers. Nothing flashy or unusual about it, just a little woodland wildflower. Unless you are a serious student of wildflowers and live in the western or northern United States, you have probably never heard even of it. Especially since its name has changed—I don’t know when—to Moehringia macrophylla. However, this little plant with the tiny white flowers will always be special to me.

 Back when I was a kid, every sophomore biology student in our class had to make a wildflower collection. Having looked forward to the process since my older brother took biology three years earlier, I happily spent the spring searching woods and fields for new flowers. My parents drove me to places like the Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood to find different varieties, but my favorite place for exploration was the railroad right-of-way behind our home. I loved to wander the paths, listening to the birds singing and the breeze blowing through the maples and firs. Finding wildflowers just gave me another excuse to escape to the woods.

 I found many flowers there—two species of trilliums, Johnny jump-ups, spring beauties, candy stripes, piggyback plants, hazelnut, elderberry, and many more. Some I already knew; others I looked up in Helen Gilkey’s Handbook of Northwest Flowering Plants, the same book older brother had used. It was like a puzzle using the “analytical key” to narrow down a flower to one particular species. Were the petals joined or separate? How many stamens did it have? Was the corolla regular or irregular? (And no, I don’t remember what all the items in that list mean anymore.)

 When I noticed this tiny little white flower nestled up against a Douglas fir, I was especially intrigued. Having no idea what it was, I analyzed it carefully until I came, finally, down to genus and species: arenaria macrophylla. The book gave no common name. Arenaria macrophylla seemed a long name for a little plant, but I loved it—the first plant I knew only by its scientific name. Discovered practically in my backyard.

 I see arenaria macrophylla—excuse me, Moehringia macrophylla—from time to time when out hiking, and it always takes me back to my youth and the wonder of discovery, the joy that even a tiny white flower can bring.

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Rain spills from gray skies. My garden remains unplanted, a muddy brown splotch in the midst of all the green. The forecasters who told us this week would be sunny and warm have retracted their words, changed them to “cloudy” and “showers.” Only four days until summer officially begins, and we are wearing turtleneck sweaters and turning on the heater. Although June is barely half over, rainfall records have already been broken.

 At first I fussed and fumed. “When will this stupid rain stop? How will I ever get my vegetable garden planted?” An occasional nice day would drop like a gift into our laps, stick around just long enough to get our hopes up, then dissolve into the showers of the next day. “A couple more nice days, and we could have tilled the garden. A few more, and I could have had it all planted.” But disappointment came again, and I sat at the window, watching the rain pour down. All my complaints would not stop the rain.

 I try to look at the bright side. Without the rain, we would not have the greenness that makes our area so beautiful. Green is such an amazing color! And I really do prefer cool, wet weather to the boiling hot days of summer. If I could just get that garden in… Patience is hard to learn, isn’t it? I am trying; I really am.  

 I look out at the grays and greens, the white blossoms on the dogwood, the pink roses across the street, and there is a calmness to it, like the steady patter of the rain that lulls me to sleep at night. “To everything, there is a season.” I try to resign myself to what will be, to accept what is. But I still think the spring rains have overstayed their welcome… I want my garden!

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As the shinkansen (bullet train) shot along the rails from Nagano to Nagoya, I watched the towns rush by outside—houses with ceramic tiled roofs, rice fields flooded with water, little family gardens stuck in wherever they would fit. As we moved into the countryside, I was struck by the greenness. I thought I knew green and its many shades, but here were shades I couldn’t recall seeing before—the tannish green of bamboo, the yellow-topped green of some kind of flowers rising like feathers above the trees. Here and there white or pink or lavender blossoms added their accents to the riot of green.

Chion-in Temple, Kyoto

 Japan is a wondrous country of old traditions and new technology. Living in Oregon, where a building built in the 1800’s is considered old, I was amazed by temples and shrines over a thousand years old. They were solid, dark brown, smelling like the earth touched with incense. And all around them were grasses, bushes, and trees with a bright greenness that dazzled me—descendants of the trees that builders of the shrines hauled up steep slopes to create places of worship reaching the sky. Did they feel the awe I felt as I looked out over the valleys far below and thought of the God who created such living beauty?

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I realize it’s no longer April, but we have a saying here in Oregon: “April showers bring May showers.” And it is true this year, as it is most years. Weather continues to be “unsettled.” The gray clouds pile up and blow across the sky, bringing a sprinkle, which builds into a steady rain. After a bit, the drained clouds move on, opening up wide blue patches in the sky. Steam rises from damp streets. Green leaves shine extra bright, waving against a dark background. We hurry to get a walk in while the sun is out.

Then the darkness builds again. This time ice bullets pelt the ground, falling hard and fast for one minute, two minutes, perhaps several more, but never very long. Again the clouds move on, leaving little white patches where the sun can’t get through to melt them. We watch to see what will happen next—and wonder when we will ever get the garden planted.

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Green

What is the color green? Driving down the road today, I was dazzled by all the new greenness that lined the road. Greens of all different shades and tints—the yellow green of maple flowers, the silver-backed green of poplar leaves, the sedate shade of pine, the dark mysterious fir, and a dozen other trees and bushes, each with its own distinct hue of green. How I love this time of year when all is green!

 Many years ago, on a warm spring day, I was riding my bicycle back to my college dorm, pedaling past a wide grassy field, when the words dropped into my head, “Look at life, and you will see it is green.” Back then green, to me, meant growth, new plants springing forth from the earth and stretching toward the sky. And yes, life is about growth, so that made perfect sense.

 Over the years, I have noticed how spring brings with it a kaleidoscope of colors. Along with the pink cherry and white plum blossoms come the yellow daffodils and blue grape hyacinths, along with a rainbow of crocuses and tulips, soon followed by rhododendrons in red and white and purple and azaleas in bright yellow and orange. While these put on a wonderful show, the different hues of green are just as impressive. Who knew there could be so many varieties of green? So now those words—so mysteriously given—mean even more to me. Life is green, not only because it is growing, but also because it comes in so many different shades—shades of leaves, shades of skin and culture, shades of politics and ways of finding meaning and seeing God. Life is mystery and beauty and an ever-changing, wondrous greenness.

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I like clouds. Living in the Pacific Northwest as I do, liking clouds is a good survival strategy. Not counting the months of July-September, clouds tend to be a part of our weather more often than not. The dull gray nimbostratus clouds that fill the sky I could do without. They darken the day and bring that steady “Oregon mist” that gets into everything and covers my glasses if I forget to carry an umbrella.

 Cirrus clouds ride high in the sky, making wispy feather shapes and neat designs. You could get some good wallpaper patterns from cirrus clouds. They don’t usually last long, since they foretell the coming of rain, usually in the form of stratus or nimbus clouds.

 Cumulus clouds are the most impressive, available in a nice range of styles and colors. They puff across the summer sky like cotton balls strewn about in the blueness. When conditions are right, they pile up like somebody went crazy with the canned whipped cream. They may turn dark and foreboding, flashing lightning and thunder that sends the dog cringing to my side, pelting the ground with icy hard pellets.

 Clouds are constantly changing, particularly in the unsettled springtime. They provide an ever-evolving mural against which the trees bring forth the bright blossoms and varied greens of April. I like clouds.

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Snow fell softly, settling onto the fat buds of the rhododendron, sifting down around a bright yellow daffodil. Spring would soon be here, but winter was not quite ready to leave. A splotchy white coat did its best to cover the soggy ground. By ten a.m. it had melted, the precipitation turned liquid. In western Oregon, winter brings more rain than snow.

 It is a time of transition. Indeed, change is always with us, but it becomes more apparent at certain times of the year. As the cherry trees burst into pink blossoms and crocuses raise their cheerful heads, most people I know are ready for spring, or even for summer. We welcome the growth of spring—with the possible exception of the lawn, which suddenly needs mowing. When autumn arrives, we welcome the changing colors and the rains that end the threat of fire, although some may dread the coming of the cold and the shortening days. Transitions are not always easy.

 My son is in the midst of transition. His springtime brings marriage, a new job, a new city—so many changes, so much to learn. I watch with excitement from afar. My autumn is also a time of change. Child rearing has ended, and work presents new opportunities. Longtime dreams rise anew; perhaps now I have time to chase them. I often fear the unknown, but the future is always unknown. Mysteries can be wild and wonderful; they needn’t always be fearful. I place my dreams in God’s hands and look forward to what may come.

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