Posts Tagged ‘spring’

Yaquina Head

One of Oregon’s well-kept secrets is that occasionally the sun does come out, even at the coast. We chanced upon one of those rare spring days while staying in Newport for a belated anniversary getaway. So naturally we spent much of the day outside, walking on the beach and exploring nearby Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. (Yes, that really is the official name of the place.)

 A minus tide had opened up more tide pools, and we explored these, discovering anemones, starfish, mussels, barnacles, snails, and tiny fish that darted into dark corners when we came close.

While my husband sketched the lighthouse, I tried—mostly unsuccessfully—to capture a photo of the perfect breaker. Then we sat quietly for a bit, watching the cormorants on the rocks and murres crowded together high up on a cliff, preparing to nest. A ranger explained how murre eggs are tapered at one end, so that they don’t roll off the cliff, since murres don’t build nests for them. What a precarious way to live!

 Later we moved on a short distance to Quarry Cove, a manmade cove where harbor seals like to raise their young. We didn’t see any baby seals there, but did watch two adult seals laboriously make their way up onto a rock to sun themselves. Seals shoot like rockets through the water, but on land they lose all semblance of grace. It almost hurt to watch as they thrashed and rolled, trying to move on the rock. Poor things!

 And finally back to the hotel to watch the golden-red sun sink quietly into the ocean. A perfect day at the coast!

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They should declare a holiday in western Oregon the first really sunny, warm day of spring. As it is, there are usually a number of UFO reports, citing a large glowing ball in the sky. After a winter of cold, wet days followed by a spring of slightly warmer, wet days, a truly sunny day is like a miracle, joyfully and gratefully received.

 What gifts come wrapped up in this bright day? First, the blueness of the sky. Winter skies, even when the sun does appear, are faded blue, an old, worn baby blanket color, cold and icy. Spring blue is a warm, vibrant blue that settles into the soul like a dove.

 The second gift is green—slivers of grass springing up so fast the lawnmower can’t keep up, the new opening leaves on trees in a hundred different shades of green, all lit by the morning sunshine, an amazing renewal of life that inspires me to get out and be active.

 The third gift is a rainbow of colors everywhere—all the bright flowers of spring. Every day new ones burst open, and I am drawn out to see them and try to capture their essence with my little camera. The sunlight brings out their colors, like a spotlight shining on a stage, and they parade across it in all their radiant beauty.

 I love sunny, spring days for the glorious gifts they bring. What gifts do you find in a spring day?

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Is it really Spring? The calendar says so, and yet I wonder. The other day the wind whipped through the branches, and dark gray clouds swept across the sky. The lone varied thrush that spent the winter here still pecked at sunflower seeds under the bird feeder. Shouldn’t it have flown north by now? And back East, snow was falling.

 And yet daffodils are in bloom. The first tentative blossoms are opening on our early rhododendron. Flowering trees in the neighborhood are bursting into pink and white. The signs are there—perhaps a bit later than last year, but definitely there.

 As I drove to the store, I looked up to see a flock of ducks or geese—hard to tell which when I’m trying to keep my eyes on the road. I immediately wondered if they were flying north. As I glanced up, I could see the flock constantly changing shape as some birds dropped back and other birds led briefly. Nobody seemed to want the leadership. Instead the flock drifted about in a big circle, going nowhere in particular.

 I guess it’s that time of year. Winter hasn’t quite left; spring hasn’t quite arrived. We are stuck in the middle, not sure what to expect. But we have hope. Spring will come. That much we know from experience. Although it may be hard to believe on cold, dark, dreary days, Earth is still revolving about the Sun, and the seasons continue in their usual pattern. We can have faith that warmer, sunnier days are on their way.

 And for my southern hemisphere friends, that means fall is coming—and I hope it brings a refreshing coolness after summer heat. Up here in the cold North, we would be happy to trade places, at least briefly.

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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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