Friday, April 18, 2014

Promises of Spring?

The pasque flowers atop the prairie drumlin, aka Frederick's Hill, at Pheasant Branch Conservancy emerged last week from the drab brown and gray landscape of seasons past. Often these are some of the first spring ephemerals to bloom here in Wisconsin. They surely are a delightful promise of more color and warmth on its way. However with snow falling across the state earlier this week and freezing temperatures overnight, it's beginning to feel like spring is moving farther and farther away as we rewind back to winter.

On April 11th I made a late morning climb up the prairie drumlin to see these beauties. While the midday lighting wasn't the best, it was still an exquisite time to visit the prairie being it was one of the few sunny days this month with temperatures in the high 60s.

After reaching the crest, I was warm enough to doff my jacket and capture a few images. Slightly fatigued from an early morning of birding combined with the hike uphill, I settled on a bench to rest after taking a few photos. Looking west over the prairie below, the warming sun, light breeze and two Field Sparrows dueling in song nearby, mesmerized me into a fleeting state where my mind felt empty yet filled with calm, free from the race the normally ensues. There I sat, so close to a city, yet seemingly so far away. The landscape was nearly void of people and cars, and only the din of birds and a warm breeze filled my auditory chambers.

The prairie drumlin is a place that beckons one to return. Therefore earlier this week I once again found myself at the top of drumlin attempting to capture more pasque flower images in the favorable early evening light. Unfortunately the blooms that had been open a few days before were found to be wilted after Mother Nature put the brakes on spring with snow and daytime temps in the high 30s.

However, hope was alive as newly emerging plants were sending up vigorous buds on the cusp of blooming.

The early evening light painted warm hues on the creek valley below to the south. The burr oaks of the savanna were still bare of any sign of leaves.

View of Pheasant Branch Creek, looking south from Frederick's Hill

As usual I marveled at the patterns of the bare oak branches against the sky. These burr oaks of the north and the live oaks of the south are among my favorite trees. I was once told by a friend, who was also enamoured with the oak tree, that the branches reminded him of his mother's hands. I often think of this story when my eyes are tracing the intricacies of the branches. Although I don't make that personal association, the thought feels poignant and comforting just the imagine the caring arthritic hands of an aging mother. So while I yearn for more trees and plants to spring forth with a lively palate of glorious greens and splashes of brilliant reds, yellows, blues and purple, I can take pleasure in enjoying these oaks which stand at their greatest beauty when barren. They will delight me until spring brings on its next act.

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