Embers From the Fire
A weekly blog by Deacon Dan Wagnitz for the Quad-Parish Community
The Melding – 3/5/21
The calendar says that the first day of spring is nearly three weeks away yet. We fix those dates firmly in the calendar as if by doing so we have some predictable control of the weather or of life. We tend to forget that the only thing that is predictable is the positioning of the earth in its relation to the sun; how that translates to whether we have tulips peaking up or icy stubborn snowdrifts in early March is a “wait and see” proposition.
We even try to control the natural elements by dragging a drowsy woodchuck, or groundhog out of its burrow to test for shadows. Of course, no in the wild woodchuck would venture forth from its den the first week of February in Wisconsin. Since they eat plants there is nothing to lure them out of hibernation mid-winter. Even if the snowpack is meager no doubt the grass will be shriveled and dry, and without taste or much nutrition.
The truth is that each of the four times we turn over seasons, it is a gradual give and take situation. Three consecutive days of snowmelt can end suddenly under a foot or more of heavy fresh snowfall. The purple finch can start singing only to hush once again if the seemingly fickle wind turns from southwest to northeast. The turning of seasons is always a melding more than a distinct handoff.
I think many look to this melding of winter into spring as a favorite. There’s something to be said for a turning away from silence and into one of building birdsong. For me it is the redwing blackbirds that are the true harbingers of spring. I think it is because you never encounter just one or two – no one claims to have seen just the first redwing of spring. That’s because they appear just like they disappeared late last September – en masse. One day the wetland will be empty, and the very next hundreds of redwings will be seen and heard singing from most every perch to be had. The males will be ruffling their feathers as they warn challengers just who is boss of this and that particular willow brush. It seems when the redwings start singing the last crusty snowdrifts and the ice have no choice but to melt.
There are many signs of spring. The budding pussy willow, skeins of north-flying geese, the rush of rivers flooded with snowmelt, the swelling of catkins on the paper birch – all of these and many more are brushstrokes on the spring canvas. But I’ll be convinced when the redwings sing.