18 August 2009

With Cloud and Wind and Changing Skies

By Sandy Griswold.

And these are the days of March, but up to date without her storms, and wind and cloud and changing skies, but wait; I am writing this early in the week, and there is plenty of time between now and Sunday next for the boisterous old termagant to be herself again.

Anyway the geese and the ducks are flying and that is one of the never failing concomitants that establishes the fact, with the sportsman at least, that this is March.

It is one of the pivotal season, and how revivifying, how inspiring, everything seems to be at these climacterics, the interment and resurrection of the isogeothermal periods in the role of nature. Go down into the lean and silent valley of the Elkhorn or the Loup, with their scraggy woods, and you will feel the throb of a new life, a life that was not there a few brief weeks ago.

Even if you do not see the newly arrived birds in any especial numbers, you will surely see a robin or two, and a jaybird, a yellowhammer, or a downy woodpecker, and perhaps bevies of chickadees and the snowbirds, now fidgety and restless, and peering eagerly to the northward.

The Children of Martius.

A few squirrels too, have undoubtedly abandoned their winter quarters n this or that decayed old elm or cottonwood, and if the sun is shining as it is shining today, there is every chance that you will find them cavorting amorously over the still unyielding earth, or among the gray branches of the trees.

As I have remarked, the chickadees should be seen and heard everywhere, for although they are fond of winter's snows and winter's winds, they are never so vivacious save in the late October, as they are in the changeful days of March, filling the air with three sweet notes, as they flicker from bush to tree, and back again. Now here, now there, hanging head down from this twig or that, like the man on the trapeze, or peering coyly into every crypt and interstice of stump or log for reawakening insectivorous tidbits, the pearly-breasted nuthatches are like-wise up and doing, sounding their elfin trumpets in rivalry to tomtit or creeper, while the ever inevitable bluejay, at times, in spiteful and absurd clamor, drowns out the lyrical efforts of all the others, save that of the far-reaching crow.

Bunny's Kitchen Middens.

The woody floors, too, you will find all barred and netted with the cold, cerulean shadows of the boles and branches of the trees, and strewn with the dead twigs that have fallen with the last of February winds, with strands of bark and shards of moss, weeds and lichen, with some of the bare places littered with the nibbled ends of sweet roots, or maybe, little piles of last fall's nutshells, walnut or acorn, the "kitchen middens" of the squirrels. Little chance, however, as was so common in the days that are gone of seeing any of those circular spots where a bevy of quail had spent the nocturnal hours, but you may find, once in a while, a tuft or so of Molly Cottontail's soft gray coat, marking the ill-omened spot where the cruel talons of some hungry owl or equally cruel paws of the prowling mink, had closed her innocent career.

These are signs and sights, however, seen only by the studious nature lover who is always on the search for the testimony of just such little woodland tragedies.

As you roam aimlessly about, here and there, you will discover the up-thrust stems, with some tattered remnants of last year's leaves still clinging valiantly to them, of the hazel bushes, and then again the rusty trail of the wild grape vines, generally of the crowseye variety; but sometimes of the big, musty blue, along which, in another week or two, at the most, the flatly pressed lobes of the squirrelcup and anemone, will greet your searching vision, promising gloriously to the dawn of hovering April, the first real month the wild flowers claim as their own.

An Elusive Fragrance.

Then mope along down the deeper bottom land thickets and a change in the lacey breath of the vernal breezes will reach your eager nostrils, a subtle scent, but wholly different from the aroma of any other month in the whole 12.

While it will baffle all but the one who has learned its secret, it will expand those little orifices of the nose of all who are greeted by it, with a decisive longing for a more generous waft of an aerial incense. Try as hard as you may, you cannot trace it to any definite source as you can the numerous well defined odors of showery May and rosy June, but you know that it is in the crisp, softening atmosphere, and you love it as you love but few scents that are so tangible in these, the first days of spring.

Day by Day.

The indurated old rambler of the quiet spaces, however, realizes that it is simply the ethereal exhalation of the ground beneath his feet, filtered upward through the coverlet of the woven crops of the past autumn's verdure, the first vitalizing breath of cottonwood, elm, oak, linden, walnut, ash, and sycamore, the unfailing accompaniment to the ambitious winds that sweep through the scant wooded valleys along all of Nebraska's erratic streams.

Not the sweet new grass and flowers,
But the rowen mired with weeds.

And then, thanks to the wisdom and the beneficence of the Father, from now on, day by day, warmer the winds will blow, more and more the tawny earth will shift into a soft emerald, bringing mirrored cloud and mirror skies, down to bounding field and swaying wood, while the rills and rivulets will wag their silvery tongues as they gladly glide along over gravelly beds, and intoned by all the musical hordes of the sweet vernal time with that ever soothing and holy, intangible though it be, of March's chaotic murmuring.

March 11, 1928. Sunday World-Herald 63(24): 15-W.

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