Isn’t it wonderful that every spring is exciting? It never gets old. And no one ever says, gosh, this spring is sure dragging on! Spring is far too fleeting; maybe that’s why we love it so. When I pass someone on the trail and we exchange pleasantries along the line of how beautiful it is, my rote response is that I would like more of these kinds of days! But the sad reality is that these kinds of days–cool and breezy yet warm and sunny, scented with sweet floral notes and grassy twinges–are not around long. In fact, you could count exactly how many days like this we get a year, and it might be twenty. I know I shouldn’t want for more, but this is my very favorite weather. Crisp mornings, warm afternoons, and gentle evenings. Sigh.
Not only is the weather perfect, but something new happens every day. One of the things I just noticed happening this week is that the striped maple (acer pensylvanicum) is blooming. Their chartreuse, elongated maple-like leaves have already opened up, and now their chain of bell-shaped flowers dangle in the sun’s rays. It’s also called moosewood, Pennsylvania maple and goosefoot maple and is similar to mountain maple. Painted maples are really very interesting, aside from their lithe trunks that are a striking green and purple striped pattern. What is most fascinating about them is that they can change their sex from year to year, depending on their circumstances. This is a rare phenomenon, but it’s also a characteristic of jack-in-the-pulpit, another local plant which is flowering right now as well. Oddly, I haven’t seen many jack-in-the-pulpits this year, but the striped maple flowers have been abundant.
Also abundant are the fruit trees down by my pond, which are in varying stages of flowering and setting fruit. The other day I was soaking in the beauty of the quince flowers who show their rose family heritage in their swirled pink buds that look just like tiny closed roses. When they open up they stretch all the way out, like a rose does. There was a Baltimore oriole in a tree near by that I was listening to; they always entrance me with their flute-like sounds. I must have been quiet for a while, for when I walked over to the pond, I happened upon a small weasel type of animal, who didn’t quite know what to do about my presence. We each had a good eyeful of the other, until it scampered away a few feet, then it chose to swim away. We had been so close to each other! I wondered who this small brown creature was, certainly a weasel of some sort. After consulting a few NY guides, I came to the conclusion that this was a mink. In my back yard! It was a rare sighting, as they are secretive, but they are by no means rare to the area, which I did not know at all. I felt lucky.
One last thing I’ll leave you with: there is nothing better than watching the maple keys (sugar, silver, red–technically called samaras) flutter down from the tree tops in a gentle spring breeze. They helicopter down and make a sensory pleasure for your eyes. I recall wearing the large green keys on our noses as a kid–we called them polly noses or is it poly noses? You’d open them up and the sticky insides would glue to your nose for a bit. The squirrels have taken to eating the fat green seeds of the maples on our front stoop, leaving piles of green key detritus.
Do you know your mustelids? (That’s the weasel family. )
Have you ever been to Opus 40? It’s an incredible stone sculpture park and museum in Saugerties. I have the great fortune of being able to offer two safe and small “writing walks” for young people, ages 8-12, in July and August. I am really looking forward to meeting young minds who might be interested in the outdoors and writing about it! Or maybe kids who don’t necessarily have that interest but should! I’ll talk more about this soon, but please pass the word.