Monday, February 23, 2009

Weekend update

Friday night and all day Saturday, snow fell over northern Illinois, reminding us once again that winter still had at least a month of calendar time. In all, 4-5 inches of snow fell, although some of it melted away on Sunday. Although it's still February, this is the time of year when it becomes frustrating to deal with snow. In my mind, I think, March begins next week... spring technically starts in March... it's almost spring! Shoveling doesn't seem like invogorating exercise as it did in December. But last year, we had a foot of snow the day before spring break started, which was several days post-equinox. So the month drags on and on...

This morning is bright and deceptively frigid. Where tall grasses grow in the prairie, the wind has blown the snow, creating mounds on the leeward side of every clump, parallel snow drifts like mini drumlins of snow. In turf grass fields, the snow is flat and white and blindingly sparkly in the low morning sun. Chickadees darted about in the trees, chirping, unbothered by the cold.

The return of snow means that animal tracks once again tell the stories of all that happened while humans were away. The small amount of snow and subsequent melting means that vole tunnels are visible as small mounds running throughout the landscape. All their twists and turns are discernable, a maze and a mystery. Their air vents and exit holes pepper the prairie, and sometimes I get the treat of seeing their tiny footprints, tail dragging along, where they left the protection of the subnivean world for some reason and crossed on top of the snow.

Squirrels have darted here and there, shredding Osage Oranges to access the seeds. Their tracks disappear as they leap into trees and reappear in other places. Coyotes trotted purposefully across the field. And the strangest sight of the morning... a goose, sitting in the middle of the soccer field. Her tracks are there, in the snow, but look as though the wind has blown snow across them, which means this goose has been sitting for a while. She's active -- as I walked by she honked at me and rearranged herself several times. But she's alone and doesn't appear to be in any great hurry to move.

In the world of plants, alders are filled with catkins, brown and hanging well over an inch down. They are still closed, but I see some yellow spaces in between the scales, and in my mind, if not in reality, they seem ready to swell and burst open as soon as the right day presents itself.

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