In the mountains, spring comes tentatively—and in fits and starts. Two weeks ago, I saw my first pasqueflower, those tiny purple buds of light that slowly repopulate the earth after winter, signaling light, new growth, the earth reborn. Then winter returned, dumping a few inches of snow and burying them temporarily.
This week, while the pasqueflowers start to fade, the spring beauties appear—small whitish/pink flowers, low to the ground, that light up the dark forest floor (below).
Two weeks ago, the first aspen seeds appeared, dangling like earrings from the tips of the branches, and this week, on the Sandbeach Lake trail in Wild Basin, just a few chosen stands of aspen started unfurling their leaves (above), even as the weather forecast is for more snow. Two weeks ago, I heard my first frog from down in the ponds along the creek. But this week I heard a whole chorus, singing lustily, their voices filling the whole valley.
Sitting outside in the warm sun, I didn’t see but heard my first hummingbird of the season, the only one it seemed with the courage to venture north in this time of uncertain weather—rain one day and then snow that melts the next day in the warm sun. The newly arrived swallows, dipping and soaring above the valley, don’t seem to care that bugs are still scarce. At night, standing on the porch in the dark, I hear the lonely cry of the Western screech owl, another summer visitor, reverberating across the valley.
“Smells,” my neighbor pronounced on our walk this week, and we inhaled deeply of something rich, something buried deep within the earth—dirt, rocks, pine needles, the roots of trees and grasses—as life rouses itself, responds to the light and the warmth.
Over the winter, our senses go dormant—there’s little to smell or feel and not as much to hear—like the creeks finally shorn of the layers of snow now noisily rushing to the plains. One morning I watched two handsome coyotes walk down the road, sniffing for whatever was on the wind—perhaps a tasty chipmunk or ground squirrel.
In these times of so much uncertainty, it’s hard not to rejoice that life renews itself right (or almost) on schedule. So I’ll keep my head up; there’s a lot to sniff out now.