Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Spring Symphony

If you ask me what my favourite song is, I'll tell you it is frog song. Every year I try to find the time and the place (& places are getting harder to come by) to listen to their alien symphonies.
I found this little frog pond last fall and marked it in memory for a return visit in spring.
On April 21, the temperatures were very warm--I would call them hot. The sun bore down from a flat blue sky, there was no shade from the leafless trees and the air was still. When I found what was left of a snow bank, I grabbed handfuls of the stuff to cool myself down. My dog just plunged right in and rolled. Now, that was cute, but she had the same idea when we got to the frog pond and she wallowed like a pig in the black muck. Our noisy invasion put a quick end to the concert, but with time and patience the frogs started up again, first one, then another, like flute and piccollo beginning the warm-up, prior to the main performance. Eventually, after forbidding the dog to re-enter the pond, the frogs went back to the business of romance and I was treated to a rich and varied concert. There were spring peepers, toads trilling, and varieties I can't yet put a name to, including a few noises I swear I've never heard before.
Such moments are fleeting gifts of time to be taken whenever the opportunity arises.

Sighting: York Regional Forest, North Tract, April 21, 2008
Medium: Pencil Crayon on Bristol
Size: 11" x 14"

Saturday, April 26, 2008


I saw a fox in the woods the other day. He looked at me; I looked at him, each as startled as the other. For a few seconds he froze, making assessments. I was mesmerized, he was most likely frightened, as I travel with a rather large dog. Prudence prevailed, and the fox leapt away, through the trees, across the hill, down into the valley and out of sight.
How many times, I wonder, have we crossed paths before. I travel the same forest bi-ways, again and again, and never before caught so much as a red-haired glimpse of him. If my dog could talk, she'd tell you a different story. She would say, the fox is here everyday! The fox smells good! Like cats and dogs and things that run! She would say, the fox is everywhere! Over here! Over there! The smell is everywhere! I can say this, because for weeks, months even, I've wondered why, at the edge of the valley, my dog stops and alerts, sniffing the air, ears pricked high, pointing with one foot raised (sometimes a hind leg, she's a shepherd, not a pointer) but always looking a lot more excited than if it was 'just squirrels'. Now I have my answer, and I'll be extra sure she never gets a chance to chase him. After all, we are travelling through the fox's yard and we want to be good guests.
Fox sighting: April 22 2008, Hollidge Tract
Pencil on paper, colours added electronically.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Trout Lily

This is the first trout lily flower of the season (April 22). One of my favourite springtime flowers; I can never decide if I'm more enamored of their mottled brown trout speckled leaves, which shimmer like spun glass up close, or their yellow and russet nodding flowers. They are amazing, but a here today, gone tomorrow phenomenon. I've also seen violets, spring beauties, and bloodroot in bloom.
Spring is a time of rapid transitions. I'm sure me and my pencils can't keep up. I'm taking snapshots as memory aids. Maybe in summer, when days get slow and lazy I'll get around to them.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Jump Start

April 15th, I saw the first butterflies of the year, velvety brown and glowing with sunlight. Glimpses were quick and fleeting, prompting me to resort to a field guide to get any kind of detail beyond cream and brown. Mysteries beyond the blue dot count were resolved--Mourning Cloak butterflies get their jump start on spring by overwintering in cracks and crevasses. Their ability to generate body heat by shivering allows them to creep out of hiding to find a patch of sunlight for further warming.
The round-lobed hepatica performs a similar feat; it's living leaves persist through the winter. Under an insulation of snow, it lies ready and waiting to glean energy from the first shafts of sunlight to reach its leaves in the spring thaw. Taking full advantage, flowers were up and ready by April 14th just a few short days after its first appearance amidst a sea of slush and ice.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Vernal Revelations

There is a brief season before spring arrives, when the snow melt reveals a winters worth of detritus--last years leaves, twigs, dirt and other items best left unsaid. Personally, I call it mud season, and am not particularly fond of this time of transition. But beneath that snow, green things grow, ready and waiting for the first breath of warm air.


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