The First Day of Spring

With snow in the forecast, we welcome the first day of spring!
IMG_4213The glory of springtime is the promise of things to come. The springtime frosts will continue, eventually giving way to the warmth of May and June. The buds begin to leaf out on the trees and the lilac shrubs, poppies and daffodils and tulips push their way above the soil, and beneath the layer of last year’s grass, a new world of green is springing up. Springtime is the season of anticipation – Anticipation of new life, baby creatures in nests and dens, delicate flower life, fresh rain on the earth, new birdsongs, new color to the landscape. We can begin to imagine the fruitful garden we hope to enjoy in the summer, the hopeful harvests of wild fruits, the putting up of produce. We can begin to imagine the heat on our backs, cool dirt between our toes, sunburnt noses, ice-cold tea, picnics, hikes, warm evenings and cool nights. Springtime is a time of promise.
IMG_8716I’m looking forward to prowling around in search of flowers, or stopping in awe at the sight of speckled fawns, or feeling rain on my face and hearing the sound of thunder in the distance. I’m already savoring the longer days, the warmer temperatures, the fragrant mornings.

Winter has left us, but she will return in season. For now, we welcome spring.

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Happy March!

The month of springtime is here! After the taste of early spring we had last week and the week before, it was hard to settle back into winter mode – And it still is winter! Once you’ve gotten out the sandals for a few days, and shed the jackets and coats and many layers of wintertime, and hiked without mittens, hats, and scarves, a return to winter is a little daunting. A beautiful snowfall yesterday and last week make my soul sparkle, but there is something exciting about the first day of March. Springtime is just around the corner, bringing new adventures and new scenery and new life and the hunt for the elusive pasque flower.
IMG_3024In the warming days we’ve had, I’ve smelled again the damp earth, the warm fragrance of old leaves carpeting the woods, the perfume of freshness and newness and greenness. I’ve seen the buds on the lilac stems, felt the mosses growing lush in the ravines. Just a hint of what is to come, but it whets the appetite for springtime. I am looking forward to the smell of rain, the longer days, a greener earth.

Spring is coming.

Happy March!

Laura Elizabeth

May Day Blue

Yesterday I mused wistfully that Harney Peak frosted white would have been stunning under a clear blue sky. The drive to church this morning didn’t disappoint! We’ve hardly seen the sun in the last week or so, but this morning it finally decided to come out and wake everything up! Amazingly enough, we had left sufficiently early for church this morning so that we actually had time to pull over on Palmer Creek Road on Hwy 244 so I could snap a few pictures.
IMG_0194Other than on Harney Peak and the rest of the high-elevation hills which were glazed with frost, everything has greened up, refreshed by the rain and snow we’ve had over the last couple of weeks. Over the next few weeks, spring will truly come rushing in!
IMG_0561Twitterpated birds are busy nesting, making a racket in every tree. Goldfinches have gotten their summer plumage and no longer look scruffy, and bluebirds flicker brightly in pastures and from fence post to tree to shrub. Meadowlarks are back to sitting on fence wires, singing their little hearts out – What a life!

This really is a glorious time of the year. What other time of the year can one enjoy the serene beauty of winter and all the fire and life of springtime, all in the same day? And I’m really so glad we live in a world with color.  God didn’t need to create color. But He did.

Laura Elizabeth

Winter Lingers

When I woke up yesterday morning, there was snow on the ground and continuing to fall from a heavy-clouded sky, a wet snow, melting and puddling in the red dirt of the driveway, but lightly coating everything else. I ran outside in my summertime footwear, refusing to go back to socks and boots. “Cold feet, cold feet, cold feet!” I scraped an inch or two of slushy snow off the truck, then ran back to the house for my camera. “Cold feet, cold feet, cold feet!” What a change from our 80-degree weather on Friday and Saturday!
IMG_9888The driveway up to Highway 40 was a fairyland. Trees were silvered with snow, grasses were bent and covered. The springtime landscape was muted and softened and pale. Low-lying cloud cover obscured hills and hilltops, altering the scenes I am used to on my drive in to work. I’ll have to admit, on Monday I wasn’t looking forward to the snow that was expected – But something about a quiet snowfall always changes my mind. The magic never fails to enchant me.
IMG_9878Snow and rain fell pretty much all day yesterday, as temperatures hovered in the 30s and 40s. When it finally warms up, how green everything will be! On the way home, I drove in and out of places where the snow was clinging tenaciously. Higher hilltops had snow on them, and the tops of trees were frosted over.
IMG_9899Living in the mountains, even relatively low-elevation mountains such as the Black Hills, the weather patterns are unpredictable and extremely changeable from one town to the next. As I drove home from church on Sunday, I drove into rain a mile or so outside Custer, as a pickup truck covered in 2 inches of snow whizzed past me the other direction. The snow and slush increased a few more miles down the road, then tapered off as I approached Mt. Rushmore. And at home, it was sunny and springlike.
IMG_9892I love the varied weather and the hesitating entry of each successive season. At this point, I am fully ready for springtime, the sun and the warmth that chases away the chill. But for now, winter lingers. Might as well enjoy it.

Laura Elizabeth

 

 

Snow and Springtime

IMG_8490Winter blew back in overnight a day and a half ago, and on the third day of spring we had four or so inches of snow, a wonderful, heavy, wet snow that cloaked every branch of every tree, every fence post, every roof and rock and hill, every little green and growing thing still clinging close to the ground. Hard to believe that four days ago we had temperatures in the 60s and 70s and were hiking to Hole-in-the-Wall without coats or mittens or snow boots!

Across the snow-covered pastures, on the sheltering hillsides, the Ponderosa pine trees were silver-blue in their wintry cloaks. Deer, startled up, fled silently through the silent trees. Wind had painted ripples into the blanketing white. But the recent spring-like temperatures had already warmed the ground, and our red-dirt driveway was muddy and mostly melted by noon, in spite of the chill day.

IMG_8558The little Kashka cat was moody and desperate, as soon as the snow began to melt. She didn’t seem to mind the dry snow, but she regarded the wet snow with unmasked disdain. She isn’t a particularly vocal cat – In fact, she seems somewhat limited in her vocal expression, sometimes opening her mouth but only producing a breathy squeak. But yesterday, she was whining and moaning and complaining and grumbling as she traipsed through the snow, and shook off her little paws in a futile effort to keep them dry. Her good-for-nothing, lazy brother was, of course, nowhere to be found. I’m sure he was holed up somewhere, dry and comfortable and warm.

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I love how the snow completely transforms a landscape, insulates it, hushes it, and the whole world seems to glow with a gleaming, blinding brightness, even beneath a heavy-clouded sky. Simple things take on a new dimension. The same hillsides and meadows and roads shimmer with an ephemeral enchantment, an enchantment that can break within a matter of hours. 

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Sarah and I took to the snow at 10:00 last night, to ramble in what was likely the last snowfall this season to be lit by a full moon. Never waste a moonlit snow! The sky was crystal clear, and there was the faintest nimbus around the orb of the moon. The brightest stars flickered in the inky blue sky. Orion and Cassiopeia, and a strange bright star we’ve identified before but whose name I can’t remember. Scrambling up deadfall-strewn hillsides to chase the moonlight, slipping and sliding into ravines, dropping flat to make a snow angel, eating snow off the needles of sapling pine trees, stopping every now and again to listen for coyotes, losing track of the time – I could have stayed out all night in that enchanted moonlit snow. 

IMG_8536In this shifting of seasons, in the sunshine and the snow, in the change and transformation from month to month, the summer birds begin to arrive with nesting on their minds, and the first insects start to hum and sing. The first of the green things shoot up from the warming earth, and rumors of pasque flowers are whispered. Snow may hide the signs for a day or two, but the seasons will fly on. Springtime is here! 

Laura Elizabeth

May Flowers, May Showers

DSCN0138.1“The trees must know something we don’t know,” Sean told me a few weeks ago, on a day when the sun was particularly warm and the sky particularly blue. The trees were budding out, but barely. Baby leaflets cast a mist of color over the trees’ naked boughs, while the garden flowers and wildflowers were springing up madly from the red earth, blissfully unconscious of any lurking chill. Yet April sailed by on a warm breeze, sometimes a warm gale, and ranchers began to worry that the hay wouldn’t come in this summer if the spring dryness didn’t let up. A week of welcome wet our first week of May allayed those fears, and summer seemed sure to arrive.

DSCN0127.1Growing up in Illinois, I’ve always taken pride in our changeable and unpredictable weather. It is true, weather in Illinois will change quickly enough, often enough, and drastically enough to eventually suit the tastes of anyone who happens to live there. I had notions of idyllic weather in South Dakota, predictable and constant and with the perfect spring temperatures lasting until June, at which point it would just start to become summery outdoors and one could go around without a sweatshirt.

DSCN0165.1But talk of snow predicted for this weekend left everyone here a little incredulous. The “one good snow” habitually expected in April never came, and May is well arrived! Yet snow we are getting, and with a vengeance. It has already gone from the sleety, wet stuff in the photo to more of a real snow, with white clinging to the grass and rocks and fences. Probably for a born-and-bred South Dakotan, this is more a nuisance than anything. For ranchers, this is downright offensive, potentially interfering with the well-being of spring calves and shipping. But for a native Oklahoman and long-time resident of Illinois, this is something of a novelty. Snow in May? That’s a never before heard of idea where I came from! For now, I’m enjoying it from the window, but when I have to drive to work today in a few hours, confronting a 14% grade, mountain highways, and twists and turns, I might not enjoy it quite so much. And when the leaf-laden tree branches are shattered, spring flowers are blighted, and the snow melts into a swampy mess, I might very well resent it. And if it causes cattle losses and traffic hazards, I’ll hate it as much as the rest of them.

Laura Elizabeth