A vaguely restless time, these last weeks of February. At night, there are dreams of wild orchids, trout lilies and columbines, sunlight filtering through the trees and songbirds caroling in the leafy canopy. In the wee hours of the morning, I wander the leafy understory, follow clouds across the western field, harken to bullfrogs in the beaver pond, bees in the wild apple trees by the fence.
By day, I measure icicles dangling from the roof, assess the strength of returning sunlight and the length of shadows in the landscape, watch as snowdrifts recede from favorite trails through the woods, leaving puffs of snow like cotton wool and a fine lacy fretwork behind as they go. Moving along, I find myself listening for the telltale sound of maple sap dripping sotto voce down tree trunks.
... and the birds. That gentle hoot is the unforgettable call of a Great Horned Owl (bubo virginianis) communicating with her mate - he is sitting on their nest in the old oak as she hunts nearby. Other monotonous (and repetitive) notes are the swooping courtship ballad of the Saw-Whet Owl (aegolius acadicus), that fierce little harbinger of the approaching maple sugaring season.
It is a few minutes before two in the morning as I tap this paragraph out. The waning crescent moon will not make its appearance for another hour or so, but there are other wonders to be viewed through the kitchen window as I hang out there with a mug of herbal tea. Planet Jupiter is high in the inkiness of the southern sky, and Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, dances almost directly below it along the ecliptic. The panorama is dazzling, and I forget the pain that woke me up an hour ago. The thought makes me smile.
Rambles are brief by necessity this winter, but I take them whenever I can. Snowy trees, tiny red buds and artfully frosted grasses beckon as I lurch about with field notebook and camera; light flickers through the bare trees and slants across my path. All my restlessness vanishes like smoke, and I rest easy in the moment, content just to be here and watching the day unfold. The particular feeling is a late winter Zen thing, and it is always an honored guest on the threshold.