Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sightings From the Field

I’m leading a hike in Zoar Valley this weekend, so yesterday, I went there to scout out trail conditions. I was hoping to see some signs of spring – maybe a skunk cabbage spathe poking through the melting snow or a chickadee belting out a musical, “yoo-hoo” territorial song instead of its usual, harsh “chick-a-dee-dee” call. No such luck. Despite bright sun and temps that left me sweaty while I hiked up the gorge trail, the wildlife proclaimed winter still held sway. That’s not to say that it wasn’t a good time, being down there -  the gorge walls laced with curtains of snow and the trails deserted, making for a quiet and solitary hike. I went from place to place, checking my usual stops to be sure they were accessible and safe, stopping now and then to follow a trackline across the snow or to examine an unfamiliar tree, figuring out what it was from the bark and the buds. Normally, I could spend hours going through those motions, lazily wandering with no regard for the time. Normally, it’s the lengthening shadows of late afternoon or an obligation that determines the time to leave, but yesterday, it was the nagging feeling that I was missing some new milestone at home. Every day, Violet gets a more knowing look in her eyes, her gaze lingers longer and longer on a toy, a book, or a face, as she seems to puzzle out the peculiarities of everything around her. She’s quicker to smile, to cry, and to recover, and the grip of her fingers feels more sure at every 4 am feeding. So, my scouting hike was more brief than usual. This year, and maybe for the next few years, I might miss the first sighting of skunk cabbage, but what's happening at home is ephemeral - sightings not to be seen again, no matter what the season. I have a lifetime of late winters ahead to see the first skunk cabbage. I’ll see it again when Violet is ready to come and see it, too.

96 days old

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