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Posts Tagged ‘Canada Geese’

Boreal Twilight

I love “North”.  In fact, I titled the above recent painting “Boreal Twilight”.  But I know that “boreal” really refers to much further North—like areas where they have perhaps 5 hours of daylight in the Winter and a “midnight sun” in Summer.  I’ll settle for Wisconsin’s extremes, thank you! 

Meanwhile, those who have not always lived in Wisconsin, might not be able to track with me these days when I say (exuberantly!) “It’s Spring!”  That’s because they are apt to misconstrue the word “Spring” to mean flowers and rapidly rising temperatures.  They don’t realize that Spring is not a matter of weather, but rather it has to do with lengthening daylight. 

In our latitude, every January we pin our hearts to the rising and setting of the sun.  By the vernal equinox (which was March 20th this year) our hearts are fairly leaping because it’s finally Spring.  The sun knows, and so do we! 

Those who think Spring means “warm” can’t seem to equate a murky, cold wet day in March with the same euphoria I experience on such occasions.  These are the days when there’s an ever-so-slight warming—although one cannot feel it due to that damp Lake Michigan chill which, in our area, penetrates to our very bones.  But we natives know about the slight warming, and so do the returning bird migrations.  The migratory birds look for open water to access near their nesting sights.  Thus the March murk will undoubtedly result in some degree of melting in rivers and at the edges of our inland lakes.

We are surrounded by water in our neighborhood, and the return of birds—including waterfowl—is signature to our Spring rejoicing.  Canada Geese (the large ones which migrate; smaller varieties now stick around all winter, in melted industrial park ponds) may be the first we see in the sky.  Their welcoming chant is absolutely intoxicating.  Many “Vs” in the sky fly with an agenda—that of going further North, to nest in wild places such as we called “home” for years.  Others pause, to party in local ponds along the way.  The Geese feed in fields en route, so their lives do not necessarily depend on open water.

The Sandhill Cranes return early, with their muted, rolling “Halloo, Halloo, Halloo” high in the sky.  This week we spotted a Crane in a near-by cornfield.  Cranes can feed on corn gleaned from last autumn’s harvest, and thus they can also afford to return early.

Later the Great Blue Herons will return.  We have many which fly over our park constantly, all Summer.  They must have fish on which to feed, so their rookeries are always located near rivers and lakes.  They are the noisy, squawky aviators—along with many varieties of ducks which return to open water.  Ducks either feed on fish or aquatic plants, depending on what kind of Ducks they are, so we’ll need to wait awhile to see them overhead.

Finally (now my “up-North” memories are kicking in) the Swans return.  We had Tundra Swans in our Northern bay every Spring—11 of them one memorable year.  Smaller swans have traditionally nested in a couple of our Southern Wisconsin county’s lakes.  But I recently heard that the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) put their formidable kabash on swans in one of our small lakes, because some of the songbirds were gone missing.  I appreciate the DNR when they try to recover wildlife from man’s damage—but will they ever learn to leave well enough alone when it comes to natural balance?  They always seem to have to get their sticky little paws into things.  Is this a power issue, or what?

So Spring has to do with the return of the birds, as well as the sun—something that Wisconsin natives understand.  And we know that premature warmth is seldom a good thing!  Last year we had a tragic Spring.  Temperatures warmed up too quickly.  March had nights above freezing, which meant that our maple syrup crop was almost nil.  The rising sap depends on days above 32° F, and nights well below.  Warm nights just won’t do.  So while some were rejoicing over a warm March, we natives knew that conditions did not bode well for maple syrup. 

Likewise, April of 2012 was almost like Summer.  We natives could not get overly excited, because we knew that the unseasonable warmth would spell trouble.  Accordingly, fruit and nut bearing trees blossomed way too soon, and inevitably a frost came along to zap the blossoms.  Result?  A dirth of fruit and nuts. 

I sorrowed over the fact that our park chestnut tree looked wimply all Summer (which was horrendously hot and dry) and did not yield any of those beautiful mahogany nuts which I love to find on the ground in Autumn.  Park authorities tended to sick trees with bags of moisture and tree food, so there is hope for my favorite park tree.  Time alone will tell.

Having said all of the above, I do have a concession to make.  I really am looking forward to warmer sun.  I have a penchant for dark skin, and last Summer with all the dry heat, I (or rather the sun) accomplished the best tan I’ve ever had in 79 years.  Now I admit that an older person who has spent a lifetime indulging in sun on skin will look quite wood grainy, and yes I do

Also an individual—if naturally a paled, Northern European skin type—may be subject to cancers from an overdose of sunbathing, and yes I am.  I’ve had several basil cells plus one malignant melanoma.  But to me, sunbathing is not a negotiable activity.  I will indulge in sunshine until I check out.  What the sun does for my soul far outweighs any damage it can do to my skin.  🙂

So there it is.  Happy Spring—whatever that may mean to you!

P. S.  My “stats” page shows that today I’m getting a lot of visitors on this blog, from Australia!  Today there have been nearly 3 times more visits from Australia than from the USA!  And you are getting ready for winter!

Normally, the visitors add up in this order:  A lot from USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Nigeria (partly due to the English language bond no doubt)—and less, but a substantial amount from nearly every country in the world.  It delights my heart to see Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, South Africa, Estonia, Romania, Czech Republic, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy (Italian readers seem to love the knitting entries), various Caribbean Islands, and many other locales. 

All my life I’ve loved reading about far away places, but I never dreamed I’d someday be communicating with people from other lands.  This thrills me to pieces.  I consider myself a “citizen of the world”!

Back to Down Under.  If there is any place in the world that I’d love to visit before I check out, it would be Australia—plus New Zealand.  I LOVE SHEEP, and raised my own spinner’s flock for nearly 20 years.  I spin a lot of wool, and your Merino is the best!   But also, your history fascinates me.   And two of my favorite films are MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER AND RETURN TO SNOWY RIVER.  The scenery and the horses cause me to view these classics again and again. 

Greetings to my Down Under Mates, and Happy Winter to you!  🙂  MLB

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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“One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring.”  Aldo Leopold, A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC

Sunday, as I was coming out from church, I saw 4 Canadas overhead—travelers with an agenda.  They were heading due north.  They were the gigantic Canadas, the kind pictured above at our northern home, not the wussie little ones that remain in open ponds around Southern Wisconsin all winter.  (Actually, the little ones are not so wussie.  They’re opting to brave the cold rather than fly to balmy Texas gulf shores.)

Although farmers get fed up with Canada geese camping in cornfields, I’ll never get my fill of these harbingers of change.  Up north, we watch them raise their families, as flotillas of Canada (not “Canadian”) geese cruise in our bay.  The Canadas pass up our wild yard, and head for our neighbor Jack’s green lawn.  Jack mows and cultivates real grass—the better for eating and pooping upon, my dear.  We’ve had countless chuckles over Jack’s goose yard, and the price he pays for trying to have a suburban golf course type spread in the otherwise gorgeous north woods!  

Mating for life, the Canadas are diligent parents.  When we canoe up the Elk River in summer, invariably a papa goose will soar out in front of us—flying low and honking like there is no tomorrow, in an effort to divert us from his family nesting nearby.

Now, advancing into March, we’ll see hundreds of straight Vs fly over in the days ahead.  The wavy lines in the sky will be the snow geese, another thrilling species of migrating birds.  March brings excitement to anyone with open eyes and ears!

Every March, I recall high school days and the soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caeser:  “Beware the ides of March”, in Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESER—read by most every student in his or her sophomore year. 

Over recent years I’d forgotten what the “ides of March” were—but I recently asked my friend Wikipedia, and he bailed me out.  (How great to have ready reference to the many questions that surface every day and week!)  Here is the answer, which probably most of you readers already know: 

“Ides of March (Latin: Idus Martii) is the name of 15 March in the Roman calendar, probably referring to the day of the full moon. The term ides was used for the 15th day of the months of March, May, July, and October, and the 13th day of the other months.[1] The Ides of March was a festive day dedicated to the god Mars and a military parade was usually held. In modern times, the term Ides of March is best known as the date that Julius Caesar was killed in 44 B.C. Julius Caesar was stabbed (23 times) to death in the Roman Senate led by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus and 60 other co-conspirators.”  Wikipedia

Since I have a “chain link” mind—one link leading to another—I couldn’t help musing over the fine quality of education which we received in the 1940s and early 1950s.  The teachers in my high school (in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa) were dedicated to their subjects.  They had been classically trained in their discipline of choice, and they had not been burdened with the necessity of focusing on “studies” in “learning how to teach”.*

An abject passion for English literature, history, chemistry, or whatever, made for good teachers—and immersion in academics created excellence in the classroom.  I know that my high school English teacher, Julia Henninger, was far more wrapped up in Shakespeare and Milton than in whatever material benefits she may or may not have been receiving for her life’s work.  I am thankful for the education I received in school, and for the awareness of history and classical literature that resulted from my privilege of growing up in a family of serious readers.

To tie up this nebulous ramble, by the ides of March we’ll probably have seen many more of those thrilling northbound travelers!

Margaret L. Been©2011

*I went off to Colorado University in 1951, armed with a passion for English and French language and literature.  By the time I enrolled in my sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, I realized that in order to teach I would have to take so many “education” classes that I wuld not have the freedom to immerse myself deeply into all the English and French classes I craved.

So I simply continued in my areas of passion.  I accrued more than the English and French credits required for a double major by the time I left school (after completing the first semester of my junior year) to embark on the amazing career of raising 6 children.  And I’ve never stopped reading!

When we love to read and learn, we continually grow.  Self-education may not put us in the upper echelons of Corporate America pay scale, but it definitely provides a varied and in-depth education.  As long as we have libraries, self-education is free and available to all Americans.

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