Field Notes: Late Winter 2022/2023
Postcard to the Woods
I’ve been walking on flat sidewalks under city trees. In a short-sleeve t- shirt, if you can believe it. Mum and I have smelled, touched and marveled our way along people’s gardens. I’m getting to know fuzzy oleander seeds, stiff manzanita leaves, smooth agaves and prickly cacti.
(Don’t worry, I’ve been careful with the cacti because on my last visit it was hard to get all the tiny needles out of my fingertips.)
Some deciduous trees here have leaves and others don’t and I even saw two covered with white flowers. I’ve also met some of your relatives – Western Scrub-Jay, Bewick’s Wren and Anna’s Hummingbird; Western Sycamore, Monterey Pine and a pink relative of American Witch-hazel. Some oaks, too. But I didn’t recognize them as your kin at first: their leaves are so small and so different from your Red Oaks and White Oaks.
I hear you’ve experienced some wintry mix. I hope more of your trees haven’t fallen.
I’ve missed you.
See you Sunday,
Not in miles or minutes
“Wow, Asha. From here, our walk looks much longer than it feels,” I say as we stand on a hill looking towards the road we often walk in the afternoon.
I experience our walk not in miles or minutes.
I experience it in
Oyster mushrooms and gibbous moons
Fox kits, snowflakes and sunsets
Maple sap barrels and deer tracks,
Rodent scoldings, woodpecker holes,
Waterfall sips and acorn rains.
Birdsongs and heartsongs
“The bird sounds are changing,” I tell a group of friends. Migratory birds are returning and year-round residents are starting to sing again.
“All winter I’ve been hearing Black-capped Chickadees call chick-a-dee-dee-dee. In the woods the other morning I heard their song, a two-tone whistled fee-bee.”
My friends listen as I go on to share questions about my work that are on my heart and mind.
“Your song is changing too,” they tell me.
After February’s ice storms felled trees and branches in the woods, I carried home twigs and put them in jars of water so I could spend unhurried time getting to know them in the indoor warmth.
I admired Hophornbeam’s tiny buds and American Witch-hazel’s soft ones, Black Birch’s slender zigzag shape and long catkins, and White or Green Ash’s thicker knobbiness.
American Beech’s shiny honey-brown bud scales and Eastern Cottonwoods’s yellow-green-brown held my attention, as did Red Maple’s round red buds and red-brown woodiness and Bigtooth Aspen’s pointed buds, clustered together.
A few weeks later I saw bits of fuzziness peeking out of aspen buds and hints of green.
Now that a few more weeks have passed, birch catkins have dropped pollen on my desk, four pinnately compound ash leaves have unfurled and flowers dangle from cottonwood buds.
Outside late-winter snow falls and falls.
You may also like:
Winter 2022/2023 – Threshold; Reclaiming Prayer; After eight inches of heavy, wet snow; Winter maple
Fall 2022 – A just-right angle; Not so Common Milkweed; Will they come true?; En route to the forest floor; I can’t just call them all brown; I wonder if their encounter was a poem
Late Summer 2022 – My amended reply; Bird voices; Looking out. Looking in.; Palmate instead of red
Summer 2022 – For the beauty of this walk; Woodpecker rhythm; Elliptic-leaved Shinleaf; The service I want to honor
Spring 2022 – Wings; Pink joy of spring; Wondering: One walk, one afternoon; A new-to-us trail; Companions after a sleepless night
Winter 2021/2022 – Breadcrumbs; But then, so when, and then; Winter visitors; My inner three-year-old meets ice; Tender hope, holy beauty