As winter draws to a close, I head out to capture its fleeting moments. The snow is here today, and will be tomorrow, but it’s changing in texture and amount. And all that has been covered and protected is slowly emerging.
It won’t be long before the vernal pool teems with life. Already, deer and skunks have stopped by.
I ventured deeper into the woods behind us, into my smiling place, without snowshoes. That meant I had to follow my old tracks, which deer and a coyote had also used. And then I saw signs of commotion on the snow and some tracks that crossed my trail. Drats–without snowshoes, I couldn’t follow it. Will I ever learn? I certainly wouldn’t make a good Boy Scout! “Be, be, be prepared, the motto of the Boy Scouts.”
Anyway, bobcat tracks always make my heart jump with joy. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s their wildness. Or beauty. The fact that they are solitary, elusive and oh, so clever. Coyotes are cool too, in their own way, but they are loud and gregarious.
As I walked back, I paused by this old beech. Mr. Cretella, my high school Spanish and Latin teacher, popped into my head. No, not because he’s old now, if he’s still living. It actually had nothing to do with the tree and everything to do with the tree. In my yearbook, Mr. C. wrote, “Never lose your desire to learn.” Those words have reverberated with me over the years. I don’t remember what anyone else wrote, but his sentiment struck a cord. Pretty amazing, given that when I took Latin I my senior year, I was forever substituting Spanish words if I didn’t know the answer on a quiz or test.
Back to the old beech tree. I guess it was the realization that this tree is in the process of breaking down and giving back and I never would have understood this before I took the Maine Master Naturalist class. Tomorrow I’m going to attend an MMNP advanced seminar and learn about bone biology. Huh? Me? Don’t worry–I won’t be able to astound you with my knowledge after a three hour class. But it’s that desire to learn that Mr. Cretella encouraged all those years ago. Thank you, Mr. C., wherever you are.
One more thing about the old beech. It still has signs of life as evidenced by the twigs with buds.
Finally, I settled down at the edge by the cow path and did some sketching because I don’t want to miss the grand moments in the lives of these trees.
Red Maple, Acer rubrum
Northern Red Oak, Quercus rubra (oops, I forgot the “s” in the sketch)
American beech, Fagus grandifolia
Winter will draw to an end in an hour and 30 minutes (6:45pm). To celebrate spring, I’ve started reading a new/old/used book: Springtime in Britain by Edwin Way Teale. On page 2 (so I haven’t read much yet, but it isn’t spring yet), he writes, “Three centuries ago, an old English writer admonished the prospective traveler: ‘Know most of the rooms of thy native land before thou goest over the threshold thereof.'”
I’m still learning those rooms of my native land. I’m thankful for the opportunity and glad that you joined me on today’s wonder-filled wander.
P.S. Lake Living magazine is now being distributed throughout the Lakes Region of Maine. I’ll let you know when the Web site has been updated.