Sunday, May 3, 2009

Life is Good

Bur Oaks Leaf Out

I wouldn't go so far as to say today was a perfect day.  After all, we cleaned the house and went to school.  But I will venture to say there were perfect moments.  Picture it...  Today was the first day of the year when it was warm enough for me to sit outside and read without a coat that I didn't have to be at work.  And so I donned a tank top... yeah, I know.  I would have better been alive before the discovery of skin cancer.  Or worse, because at least I wear sunscreen, knowing the danger.  I don't care so much about looking tan, I just really love the feel of sun.  Anyhow.  I stretched out on a lawn chair with a book about food, while next to me some of my future food -- seedlings that have been living too much of their lives under a grow light -- also basks in the sunlight.  
The seedlings really needed it, too.  I have been raising wimpy plants, unable to stand up to wind and wilty in the sun.  Normally I have them out more by now, but it's been chilly, it seems.But today is sunny with only a slight breeze and about 70.  So today they and I enjoyed the sun.  

Just about everything that's not fully green has a haze around it as new leaves finally emerge...  this doesn't seem like a warm early spring day when the sticks are all bare and the grass is still yellow.  And everyone mowed yesterday, so it's totally quiet of human noises.  Birds sing all around, some with songs I recognize... robins, a far-off red-winged blackbird.  Goldfinches dip by and LBBs are everywhere chipping and chirping and warbling.  Cutting through everything, the chickadee's two-note song, almost sad, alerts me to their presence in the yard.  This is the same call that I imitate to call students in from quiet field activities; perhaps he is calling me in?

I breathe in.  The air smells fresh and clean, mixed with sunscreen and the faint remains of last night's fire.  It smells like summer, although it is only the beginning of May.  And, although I have school tomorrow, I feel relaxed.  The house is clean, we are pretty caught up on the yard work, amazingly, for the moment.  Well, as caught up as you can ever be...
And then, the moment that already seems pretty darn good gets way better.  A huge green darner circles around the yard, flying close not once, but several times.  Odonates, dragonflies and their daintier sisters the damselflies, are my favorite animal when I have to identify one.  (Although really, my favorite animal is whichever one I see right now, a constantly changing menagerie as I contemplate the adaptations of the things that are surviving where I am.)  I love their jewel tones -- vibrant blues and emerald greens, oranges, reds, yellows.  I love their shimmery delicate wings and their bulging, multi-faceted eyes.  I love that they're tough, predators, survivors for 250 million years or so.  I love that they have a secret life, that the swooping, soaring insect that everyone recognizes, and which is the object of art around the world... that's just the last, flamboyant bit of a life spent mostly under water.  Depending on the species, they may swim as nymphs for 5 years before spending a short summer in the air.  I don't particularly love their violent mating rituals, but I am fascinated by them and respectful of them as the result of an evolution of behaviors that clearly works.  
I have always had these visitors to my yard, usually several species of dragon- and damselflies each summer.  I am grateful for their presence although we live several blocks from the nearest substantial body of water (I'm pretty sure the little pool where my sump pump releases water, though it is pretty deep right now and supports some marsh marigolds, isn't enough for dragonfly eggs).  
It's not just the dragonflies -- the insect world is definitely waking up.  Bumble bees fumble around the yard, and I've seen quite a few of the small native bees which I believe live in small holes.  I put up a home for them and I think they like it because I've had them around the last couple of summers.  Annoyingly, box elder bugs have been everywhere for the last few days and wasps are back at their old games of building nests on the side of my house.  I also saw a small white and a small yellow butterfly today -- those sulphurs and whites -- I probably couldn't ID them if I had a field guide and a pinned specimen.  But it's good to see them in my garden.

Yesterday I also saw a monarch!  Granted, this was a little bit to the south, but they're probably here, too.  I mean, it would be awfully lucky if I drove 30 miles to the south on the exact day of the first monarch there, and actually managed to see it, too!  But even if I did, they'll be here shortly.  
Other notables:  oaks leaf out, ash leafs out, (a lot of things leaf out...), first flowers on golden Alexander, first flowers on Jacob's ladder, Jack-in-the-pulpit has emerged and is about 4 inches tall, daffodils are kicking the bucket, potatoes have broken through soil in the garden, creeping Charlie is taking over the world. 

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