Transitions

March is a month of transitions.  I’m not really ready for winter to end but I still have a hankering for spring.  For those who feel as I do March is cooperative.  One day it will give you snow and ice, and the next day it will rain for 24 hours.  Last week the temperatures ranged from two below zero Fahrenheit to fifty degrees!  It is a month of being stuck in the middle.  Kind of like my present situation where I feel stuck in the middle between being young and old.  When you’re young you have seemingly endless energy.  When you are older, if you are lucky, you have wisdom; the chance accumulation of knowledge and experience.  Both have their distinct advantages.

A few days ago I was wandering around on the edge of a conifer forest in an old beaver meadow.  The snow was deep.  The previous weekend it had snowed 16 inches on top of the already deep snow pack.  Snow shoes were absolutely necessary. The 42 inches of accumulated snow would have been too deep in boots alone. A thick crust on the snow surface aided the snow shoes and supported even the weight of my large frame so that maneuvering about the snowy countryside was downright pleasurable. On this day it was occasionally foggy; the result of warm air associated with an oncoming storm rumbling over the top of layers of cold snow.

Cruising this area can be somewhat challenging.  The beaver meadow, a small pond ten years ago, is now thick with willows and alters.  I was surprised to see some new beaver cuttings.  Perhaps this potential forage was being cut and cached in an upstream beaver pond.  The stream ran freely through the breached dam at this location on the southwest corner of the beaver meadow.  The sound of moving water could be heard over the steady breeze that carried an impending storm.

As I wandered through the beaver meadow I located two bird nests.  They were perched in a group of speckled alders and the nests were covered with lichen.  Glancing around I could see that the lichen had been foraged from the bark of balsam fir at edge of this small wetland.  The light green lichen would perhaps camouflage the nest in warmer weather, but without foliage this slightly disheveled nest was as naked as a jaybird.  The adult cedar waxwings that constructed this nest had chosen a concealed site during the month of May when life and leaves filled this beaver meadow and when it was only clear to those who knew it well as to exactly where home was.

As I often do, I stood there thinking. Almost a year ago two pairs of cedar waxwings chose this old beaver meadow as a site for raising the next generation.  It is secluded.  It has lots of forage, especially considering waxwings are primarily consumers of fruits and berries and this area contains partridge berry, winterberry holly, wintergreen, silky dogwood, bunchberry, northern arrow-wood, dewberries, and Canada elderberry just to name a few.  It is also full of good nesting sites, and has an outrageous selection of great nesting material including twigs, grasses, sedges, lichen, and hordes of peat moss. The two mated pair of birds took advantage of all of these wonderful resources and built a place to raise their young.  It was as perfect as perfect can get in the natural world.

The road maps in my mind took my thoughts to a different place and a different time.  I found myself thinking about a time when more than thirty years ago my wife and I, both young and full of vim and vigor, cleared land, felled trees, turned the trees into boards and framing material, and built a house.  This was our nest.  This was where we would raise our two children for the next couple of decades.  It was nearly perfect.  We had a stream. We made a clearing to raise vegetables.  We expanded our clearing and raised goats, pigs, chickens, and a few cows.  We had fresh air, clean water, and northwest winds to clear our minds.  To us it was as perfect as perfect can get in the natural world.

A strong warm wind blowing in from the southeast brought me back to reality.  Mist filled the air as low clouds filled in the beaver valley void.  I sought shelter in the dense conifer forest where black spruce, balsam fir, and hemlocks intertwined their branches and hid the sky above.  As I navigated my way through the evergreens I stopped at a small, nearly round, clearing.  The sky was open.  The ground was uneven and full of shrubs and saplings.  Bare branches held secrets of times long passed.  And underneath the snow the red sphagnum moss hid waiting for the first sunlight of the year so that it could begin the next year’s growth and revert back to the emerald green color that so often signifies life.

This tiny oasis of deciduous shrubs in a dense section of boreal forest was the result of a fallen tree.  It fell long ago; most likely in a high wind.  Its shallow roots resting on compact dense silty soils could not resist the powerful force of nature. The tree fell. The large root ball of the tree would eventually decompose and settle.  It was not just a small earthen mound where small shrubs could grow above the water table.  It was a chance respite for seeds transplanted by birds and mammals that would host a new and divergent plant community.  Some might call it a stroke of luck.

I sat on an old log.  Again my thoughts weaved their way through the tangled web in my mind and found a place in the past.  I was 23 years old. I saw an advertisement in the reality section of a local newspaper under “Land for Sale”.  Why I called the realtor I have no idea.  I had no money.  He showed me a piece of property.  I loved what I saw; a brook, deep woods, it was located on a secluded dirt road, and best of all it was very inexpensive.  I borrowed the small down payment from grandmother and purchased the land.  I now had a place to hold my heart and spirit; a chance respite for a transplanted soul and a piece of land to host my new adventures.  More, I found love.  Some might call it a stroke of luck.  I call it destiny.

As I travel through the conifer forest I find myself climbing a low gradient hill.  The forest composition changes from firs and spruce to pines and hemlock.  The snows that were shallow under the dense boreal cover become deep again.  I remember it is March; the month of transitions.  And I realize it’s not so bad being caught between winter and spring.  The moment is now and I’m alive, in love with my wild surroundings and still willing.

Yes, I am still willing.

Written for www.wildramblings.com in March of 2011.

  • Teresaevangeline

    “In love with my wild surroundings and still willing.” I can so relate. The world continues to unfold its beauty to us every day. As the saying goes, “We just have to show up.” You show up. And you share it with us. And I thank you.

  • allycat

    I feel like I’m journeying with Thoreau himself! I thoroughly enjoyed this, both the way you weave the story with your writing and the place itself. It seems so healing and almost magical, as if an amazing small event, as simple, say, as a bird’s arrival, might crack the silence at any moment!

    I do have one recommendation. Lyrical prose, such as this, is marred by bad grammar, wrong punctuation and the like. Mistakes are jarring to the flow. It’s only because you express yourself well enough with words that I encourage you to pay attention to those details.

    Along that thought, in the sentence “Its’ shallow roots resting on …” there’s no apostrophe in “its.” There are but two uses of it’s/its (and they’re exceptionally easy to remember):

    (1) it’s = it is. Always. No exceptions.
    (2) its = possessive form. Always. No apostrophe. No exceptions.

    Mindfulness to those details will only help your prose. :)

  • Wild_Bill

    Thanks. I can always use a little coaching, especially with apostrophes. I appreciate your candor. And I’m glad you enjoyed the journey.

  • Wild_Bill

    Yes Theresa, the world continues to unfold its beauty to us every day. It’s true, all we have to do is show up, and I know you show up too. Thank you.

  • http://zoologirl.southernfriedscience.com Zoologirl

    Being caught between winter and spring is definitely how I’ve felt lately. I really feel like I can picture your place from your descriptions. Great picture of the nest also. I love waxwings. And as someone who moves frequently, your story makes me yearn to build a nest of my own.

  • Anonymous

    There are advantages to moving around, but I prefer to do so from one main base. It’s not for everyone, many people like the challenge of new places and new people. But there is something to say for a long relationship with a piece of land. I feel like I am joined at the hip with where I live. Only development could make me move.

    As always, thanks for reading!

  • http://dailyonegoodthing.blogspot.com Barb

    Hi Bill, I like meandering with you and sharing your thought patterns. Your choices many years ago have made you who you are today. March is not so much of a transition at high altitude where I live – there is still more winter to experience. But, in my heart I wait for that time of transition, too, when snow begins to melt and there is more daylight for roaming. But, like you, I’m enjoying NOW. It’s all we can really be sure of. I enjoy your writing.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, high altitudes and high latitudes get an extended winter. I wouldn’t mind it a bit. The transition takes some getting used to. But that is OK, there is much to enjoy.

  • Montucky

    You have narrated a beautiful flow of feelings here, Bill. Thank you for sharing them. I think often too of the transitions of the seasons and the transitions caused by being mortal, and as I grow older I am comforted by being able go through those transitions in harmony with the natural world. I feel badly for those who do not.

  • http://www.beyondplumcreek.com/bpcblog Hudson Howl

    Bill I hear you. I truly do. What is it about March that makes one a little more reflective, a little more sensitive, a little more mellow, a little more in tune? -I have recently thought. Is it that we have to slow down, look a little harder for the ‘pretty things’. March is often over looked by many as being a great time to get an see what ‘wonders’ can be discovered. Your right, ‘transition’ is not such a bad place to be. It is what holds the Ying and Yang together I guess. Thanks for another piece in the puzzle.

  • Anonymous

    It is this flow, the pace of things, that humans have a hard time with. Humans can be impatient, and we want things to be perfect. Worse our image of perfect has everything to do with form rather than content. Excepting and appreciating a destiny is beautiful. All part of the grand plan of evolution or the universe?

  • Anonymous

    Beautifully stated “It is what holds the Yin and Yang together”! I wish I had thought of that. Yes, transition is like a pliant glue that holds things together and lets them separate when necessary. This is a brilliant observation! Thank you so much for commenting.

  • http://primarilypets.blogspot.com Barbara

    Such beautiful musings Bill – and once again a delightful wander with you through the bush and across the beaver meadow, to feel the sun listen to the bird song and admire the tiny signs that all is in order in the natural world, moving towards spring. I’d not thought of March as the transition month…but you’re right – we get it all in March.

    I’m really not fond of the drenching downpours of early spring – they allow me to see what will need to be cleaned up – and the mud! On the other hand, I can feel the stirrings after a long winter – and you remind me that one of the reasons I love this place is that like yours does for you, the transitions are what make it special.

    By the way, you’re only as old as you feel – I doubt you’ll ever be truly “old” – you are way too much in the present, in the now. Such a great way to be… here’s to transitions and all the wonder that they offer and move between.

  • Wild_Bill

    Thank you so much Barbara! We call mud season the fifth season in New England (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Mud Season). It makes perfect sense, right?

    Embracing transitional times helps them to pass. We all like to have our feeto on firm ground, but during these transitions there is so much to learn!

    And the aging thing. I intend to enjoy it.

  • http://gardenpath.wordpress.com/ Sandy

    Bill, you have made me feel so much better about March. From now on, I will stop thinking of it as the bright month before spring, and learn to love it for what it is. Thanks for the second lesson of the day. Just came from Barb’s site, where I got the first one.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Sandy. I’m glad that I could be of help to you today. Now to figure out the first lesson of the day I will skip over to Barb’s site and take it all in!

    By the way, your haiku on Four Winds Haiga, is beautiful. Thank you.

  • http://www.landingoncloudywater.blogspot.com Emily

    “The moment is now and I’m alive, in love with my wild surroundings and still willing.” This is a mantra if I’ve ever heard one, something to be written down in ink, hung up some where visible, and taken in every morning like a perfect cup of coffee. Thanks for this. I’m feeling GOOD THINGS about this March. She’s a’waking (and I don’t mean me).

  • http://findanoutlet.wordpress.com/ Find an Outlet

    High on my list of amazing things was the time I saw a formation of cedar waxwings on a branch in CT. They were passing berries, one by one, down the line to the next bird. It was a rare sight. Thanks for the picture of their nest, wow it’s a beauty.

    In CT I used to call March “National Suicide Month.” Waiting, waiting, waiting, for green sprouts, warm winds, and relief from heating bills. As an adult who had fallen on hard times, the joy had disappeared and left only despair. Your posts make me miss my native land in ways I thought were gone.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Emily. I can tell you that my wife would strongly prefer the coffee!

    March in Minnesota must be more unpredictable than it is here in central New England, probably like March in norther Maine.

    I’ve never been one to believe in calendar seasons; it’s better to go by what you see outside your window, right?

  • Anonymous

    I would have loved to have seen the cedar waxwings passing berries down a line! That must have been amazing!

    I think our roots are difficult to extract. You will likely always carry a part of CT in your heart. When you think about it that is wonderful. So nice that you seem to like where you are at now. Arizona is quite a special place.

  • http://pathwayswc.wordpress.com/ P. Callen

    Hi Bill, I got your link from our friend Cirrelda Snider-Brian. I enjoy your writing, and am glad you take the time to do it. We had some flocks of cedar waxwings come through this winter, good to see a dozen of them at a time. They peck at the Russian Olive fruit, but seemed to have a hard time eating it. We have a small pond, lots of birds visit here, but this was the first year for Red-Winged Blackbirds, unusual at this elevation and distance from the river.
    Here is a link to our blog over at Pathways: Wildlife Corridors of NM
    http://pathwayswc.wordpress.com/
    Thanks!

  • Lbiederstadt

    I loved the meandering story that found a heartfelt place to rest. I love taking walks with you through your words, Oh Generous-Souled One.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you. Wandering about the woods and in words seems to be what I do. I’m very happy that you decided to join me.

  • Anonymous

    I am so happy you stopped by! Russian olives are a favorite of many birds but it can ferment by mid winter and the birds often reject it. This particular shrub has taken over huge areas in the northeast, it seems like half of Rhode Island is infested with this plant.

    I will stop by your blog and give you a visit. Thank you.

  • http://writingsfromwildsoul.wordpress.com/ Wendy

    How extraordinary, Bill, to have this kind of history with a piece of land. To have these memories of so many years in relationship with the place, the house, your family that have literally grown out of the ground and are so rooted in this place and its seasons. You are a fortunate man. And your land is fortunate to have you there. Thank you for taking us on your walks with you.

  • Anonymous

    I know I am lucky to be where I am. To have wild areas to fathom. To be surrounded by the beauty of nature. To just be.

    Roots are wonderful, and considering where I came from as a child more wonderful than many can imagine.

  • http://craftygreenpoet.blogspot.com Crafty Green poet

    what a lovely post, March here is not just a month caught between winter and spring, but this morning on a two hour walk, i experienced sunshine and blue skies, almost warm; hail; cold high winds and rain!

    Thanks for your comment on my blog, roe deer are native to Scotland but had been hunted almost to extinction so had to be reintroduced.

  • Anonymous

    That’s March! You never know what you are going to get weather wise. As they say, if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.

    I’m happy to hear that the roe deer were reintroduced. Do they intermingle with other types of deer?

  • Marvin

    March is, indeed, a month of transition, but here in a more southern latitude, the change to spring is usually complete by the end of March. (I wise person never says “always” regarding the weather.) Cold fronts will still barrel down from the north and they will collide with lots of warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. We will be reminded that although the Ozarks do not conform to the stereotypical image of the American Mid-West, we are still on the edge of Tornado Alley. Still, by March’s end, we’re unlikely to suffer significant winter weather. (Now that I’ve said this, we’ll probably end up with a foot of snow on the ground in mid-April.)

  • Anonymous

    Yes, never say never when it comes to the weather! I wonder who first said this. Anyways, spring must be beautiful in the Ozark mountains. What are the highest altitudes in this region? I passed through a corner of the Ozarks in 1973 and it reminded me of the mountains in New England. Thanks for reading and commenting Marvin.

  • Marvin

    The Ozarks were once and uplifted plateau. Over time, the valleys eroded leaving the mountains behind. The tallest peaks in the range are around 2500 feet. We live a few hundred feet off the top of a ridge at around 1600 feet.

  • http://everyday-adventurer.blogspot.com/ Ratty

    This is a good one. Now I’ll be remembering all the things I’ve done in my past and wondering what the future holds.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for replying Marvin. I live at about 1600 feet too. The back of our land is about 1780. The Tallest mountains in the Green Mountain Range are about 4000 feet but in our vicinity the highest ones are 2600 or so. I suspect we both like living in the hills.

  • Anonymous

    Ratty

    Given your wonderful explorations of all the parks and wild areas around you I can imagine only good things for the future.

  • http://swamericana.wordpress.com/ Jack Matthews

    You and your wife accomplished so very much in the construction of your home and placement in nature. March is that transition month, isn’t it? Our winds are so strong in March. The last few years prairie fires have been a problem. You contend with beaver! You are so fortunate, Bill. I like your detail of shrub, tree and bird.

  • Wild_Bill

    Thank you Jack. Building our house by hand with materials primaily from the land was quite an undertaking. I’m glad we don’t have to contend with prairie fires. Although the “brush” fires we have up here can be formidable.

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