On and Over the Hills

"Go as far as you can see; when you get there you'll be able to see farther." ~ Thomas Carlyle

One Shining Day: A Journey Into Spring in the Hills

It begins in March. You would not dare dream about the end of winter in February but March usually presents a rare radiant day whose brilliance plumbs beneath insulating layers of patience and insidiously nudges sleeping desires. It invites you to imagine the treasures lying beneath their own thick, albescent cover that must be sharing that awakening, sensing the tingle of dividing cells, sipping hints of nourishment. Weather, the quintessential, ever available topic of casual social encounters dominates all conversation. Analyses of local climate and comparisons of current conditions to past and foreign Marches are argued among and between the old-timers. Memories are suspect; predictions scorned.

Eventually March gives way to April and prods once-steadfast sufferance with taunting images of spring from distances. Schoolbooks taught us that April is synonymous with the promising season, but the strength of winter is bolstered here by latitude and altitude. Patience is tested. Sometimes March, but this year April has brought teasing promises like the sudden appearance of velvety catkins swelling beneath shining sheaths. They decorate the glistening willow at the moist bottoms of sunny slopes.

Squirrels, who through the long winter endure because of their humble industriousness, filling secret middens with the nourishing cones of pine and spruce, in April, ascend the bare poplar whose buds are only just beginning to swell.

Still the cold, though weakened, perseveres and battles the inevitable assault from the ever-rising arc of the sun through changing days. Water that trickled to deepen a crevasse in the now compacting snow, cycles through its physical states. The hare, who must have read from the same schoolbooks, begins to shed its concealing white coat and must hide even more stealthily as brown fur replaces it. A barely visible songbird serenades from the top of a lofty pine tree in the sunshine and Dark-eyed Juncos are discovered gleaning tidbits under a tangle of shrubs at the edge of a ravine.

At first, it is only at night that you hear them. Canada Geese, Snow Geese, Sandhill and possibly Whooping Cranes, Tundra and less likely, Trumpeter Swans fly high overhead, their calls joining with the stars as a processional to spring. Then, if you’re lucky, on a rare warm day, you’ll watch as flock after flock of cranes join above the hill to circle as they ride a thermal to gain altitude: a spiral tower of ever fading specks and cacophonous calls, disappearing into the atmosphere above you. Throughout April and May, the energy-efficient V’s of migrating birds adorn the sky. The gargling gar-ooo’s of the cranes and the familiar honking of the geese are often the only way to identify the specks appearing and disappearing among the clouds. In the sunshine, black wingtips give away the snow goose, but the usually quieter and reserved swans, often flying lower over the hill, are unmistakable: black bill and feet starkly punctuating their graceful, huge-winged, long-necked, pure white bodies.

One shining day, I find dry purchase on a bed of moss and pine needles along a south-facing hill of mature pines. The liquid shine of a small pond below me promises the possibility of a visit from ducks or geese. Soon, a pair of Mallards is drawn to the submerged vegetation revealed through the clear water. Shy and skittish, they flush at the slightest sound or movement. The tentative approach of another species with whistling wings provokes the male into the air after them, the chase ending at the edge of the pond, where the Mallard skims the surface as he lands. The intruders continue their search for a resting place as the colourful drake silently floats back toward the sound of his relentlessly calling mate.

I stand among the pines, still and silent. Yet as if through a language I could not understand the female has given away my presence, the drake turns a graceful circle in front of me before suddenly taking to the air once again to alight beside his mate further down the pond. The next day dense clouds unload a thickness of heavy slush. Water on the cusp of freezing floats the snow that the Mallard couple must push aside as they trail across the surface, constantly seeking the pondweed seeds they need to survive. They will persevere and perhaps raise a brood on this little ravine pond as winter gives way to spring, and spring blossoms into summer in the hills.

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31 comments on “One Shining Day: A Journey Into Spring in the Hills

  1. Bob Zeller
    May 1, 2011

    Cindy,

    Again I am at a loss for words, and that is saying a lot about me. I usually can rattle on and on. But your fine art blows me away. I can’t decide what your medium is. I can’t decide if it’s photography, or your writing. But when you combine the two, like you have, you have painted a masterpiece.

    Bob

    • missusk76
      May 2, 2011

      Oh, Bob. You always make me blush. 🙂

      • Bob Zeller
        May 2, 2011

        I’m sorry that I embarrass you. I believe that you don’t believe how good that you really are. 🙂

        Bob

  2. pixilated2
    May 1, 2011

    We’ve been watching the Canadian Geese fly overhead and listening to them wend their way home. Occasionally they stop off at one of the many ponds here for a bit of a rest on their long journey north. Your photos are lovely and I am so glad that Spring has finally found her voice where you are!
    Lynda

    • missusk76
      May 2, 2011

      I often think that it’s a good think I don’t work outside at this time of year. I’m sure I’d break myself in pieces trying to get anything done with my nose literally in the clouds.

  3. Shelly
    May 1, 2011

    Cindy, very nice photos and prose. I hope that May fulfills the promise of spring for you up north.

    • missusk76
      May 2, 2011

      It’s definitely looking good lately, still some deep snow blocking progress here and there, but there’s lots of bare ground too and the buds are swelling.

  4. A.Barlow
    May 2, 2011

    Really nice images. Squirrels are always winners in my book 🙂 Love the clouds in the first shot.

    • missusk76
      May 2, 2011

      Thank you Aaron, the photos on your website are quite beautiful. I’ll be taking a closer look when I get a moment.

  5. photosbymartina
    May 2, 2011

    I always enjoy reading your posts, I love the squirrel photo and the drake on the water.

    • missusk76
      May 27, 2011

      Thank you Martina. It really felt like the squirrel was posing for me. It’s so unusual for a squirrel to hang around and stare at you without it darting up the tree to chatter from the heights. It was a special moment.

  6. Dave Linscheid
    May 2, 2011

    I can see your spring through your words.

    • missusk76
      May 27, 2011

      Thank you Dave. I’m delighted that my writing gave you some visuals. I appreciate you stopping by to read.

  7. Rose
    May 2, 2011

    These are so beautiful, you live in a magic place. Love to see how nature gets back to life and sometimes it happens over night. Love the photos, so fresh.

    • missusk76
      May 27, 2011

      Hi Rose. It indeed feels as if the world has sprung to life just over night. I do feel very lucky to live so very close to nature that is almost at it wildest. However I am a firm believer that where ever you are, there are wonders to enjoy. Julian Hoffman has a beautiful post here called ‘The Wonder of Ordinary Places’, which reminds us all to open our eyes and see the little miracles that are just under our nose. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. Thank you for stopping to visit.

  8. julianhoffman
    May 3, 2011

    Delightful! I’ve long imagined those high, migrating flights of geese and cranes pale against a deep blue sky and now you’ve brought them a little closer. Thanks…and enjoy the spring, Cindy!

    • missusk76
      May 27, 2011

      I am enjoying the spring very much. The migrating water birds are less frequent now, but always a thrill to watch. There’s something special about the masses passing over – a spectacle, like a message for those who are listening. I wish I could spend all day every day, outside in the spring. So many wonders revealed. Thank you, Julian.

  9. Jim Rook
    May 3, 2011

    Cindy, I really enjoyed this posting. Any additional words beyond those of Bob Zeller are fluff as his comments were so true. You have an eye for seeing those creations that have been given and the talent to capture them as if we were there with you, seeing them for the first time. Thanks for sharing your gifts.

    • missusk76
      May 27, 2011

      I am delighted that you are able to see through my eyes, Jim. As I’m taking a picture, I’m always thinking of sharing it – will others see the beauty that I see? Your encouragement means a lot. Thanks for reading.

  10. B.Held
    May 5, 2011

    completely stunning!

  11. Sybil
    May 7, 2011

    Bob Zeller expressed what I wanted to say.

    Wonderful pictures with wonderful words.

    My favourite is the last shot of the mallard couple on the pond.

    Glad we don’t have your snow.

    • missusk76
      May 27, 2011

      I try to appreciate what I have, but man I would love a telephoto lens to get in closer to the birds. They are so beautiful. I’m glad you like the image as it is, however. It’s a different take to show the birds’ environment as well. Happily, the snow is all gone, however there is still some stubborn ice clinging to the edge of a deeply shaded ravine creek. Thank you your encouragement, Sybil.

  12. pampr1
    May 10, 2011

    Stunning! I found myself holding my breath throughout this narrative … and such pictures as well as your words. Lovely!!

    • missusk76
      May 27, 2011

      Thank you so much for such a wonderful compliment, Pamela. I’m guessing you have just started your blog as there is no public content there, but your header image is beautiful. I hope you are encouraged to write and share soon, it is an amazing feeling and opens up the world like nothing else.

  13. Kia and Zeno
    May 21, 2011

    What a delightful entry, Cindy! Thanks for taking us with you in this gorgeous spring walk! 🙂

    • missusk76
      May 27, 2011

      You are so very welcome, Kia and Zeno. I’m equally delighted that you enjoyed it.

  14. farmhouse stories
    May 27, 2011

    I agree with everyone else, a beautiful post in every way. I hope you are completely in the midst of spring right now.

    • missusk76
      May 27, 2011

      We definitely are, Cait. I photographed my first wildflower amongst the leaf litter yesterday. I just have to go back and determine its exact species. There are little wonders every day now and I would so love to be able to spend all my time outside. Thank you for stopping by and for your encouragement.

  15. Kia
    June 2, 2011

    Just dropped by to see if you posted other lovely spring images. I am totally uninspired lately. This has been the worst spring I can remember, weather-wise. We have a high of 12 Celsius degrees and are getting rain, rain and more rain. So depressing. Hope spring is much cheerful in your wee corner of the world 🙂

  16. missusk76
    June 2, 2011

    Hi Kia,

    A friend of mine has just returned from England via India and has been freezing since she came west. She said England was terribly cold and it’s just these last two days begun to warm up here. Nevertheless, the wildflowers are beginning to bloom, so I have been taking many pictures on my lunch walks. Unfortunately, although I have started a story or two, I haven’t been able to find the concentrated time to finish them. Spring is a very busy time at school any year, but this year I am renovating my library so it is especially busy.

    Thanks so much for popping in, your interest is very encouraging.

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This entry was posted on April 30, 2011 by in The Journey and tagged , , , , , , , , , .
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