Friday, January 31, 2014

Notes for mid winter

1. I'm sure I will get no sympathy from my east coast and mid western friends - but for us it is a cold day today - just over 50 degrees this morning. The sun is in hiding.  But overall this January is the warmest since record keeping began in the mid 1800s.  Average high tempereatures were up 8 degrees above normal.  High temperature records were topped 18 of the 30 days in the month.

A dry foggy morning in January

2.  The start of our rain season is July and since then we have had only 2.19 inches of total precipitation.   The mountain ski resorts are shut down (snow 12% normal), reservoirs are drying up, some towns are making contingency plans to tank in water. It has been too dry even for weeds to grow,  where they usually are 3 feet tall by now.  Some bay area cities had less rain this season than Death Valley.  

Our local lakes are shrinking daily

3. Even with the drought, I love the ever changing cycle of the seasons - predictable - but every day full of surprises. At twilight the tree frogs begin their tireless concert  - They are telling me that while it is still cold winter that they are preparing for warmer days to come. We can generally count on no more frost after  Feb 1.

Winter Ice crystals 

4.  February

Frog songs fill the night
With boisterous laughter
Scissortail swallows
return to ancestral homes

Winter coats
Are flung into back closets
The light has won
The miracle happens

Buds grow again
from dead branches
Gone are the weary nights
Light has won over darkness

Early spring Cottonwood

5.  Acacia trees are in full fragrant yellow blooms as a portent of spring and the bane of hay fever sufferers.  While I see the first buds begin to form on the lilac bushes, it is too early to show any green.  Dafodills have emerged from the ground but will wait a bit before flowering.  Early plum trees are in full bloom. My winter potatoes are beginning to show sprouts.

Clouds but no rain

6.  Here in N. California February is the month to prune fruit trees.


Winter is spare and hard
Blunt ended apple twigs form filigree patterns
Against the gray clouds that ebb and flow overhead
Mummy fruits hold tight, high in the slender branches

My fingers ache with cold,
As I grasp the cutting tool
Each cut is a decision

Crossing branches wear against each other in winter storms
Small twigs will bear next summers fruit
Permitting all growth harms the tree
Summer growth believes that anything is possible -
Winter is a time of judicious choice.

Middle twigs snipped sway allow sunlight to enter
Damaged twigs broken by too much summer fruit are cut loose.
Each cut stimulates new growth
My will is marked upon the tree
The tree is my metaphor

7. Most Februarys I would recommend getting cozy by a nice wood fire - sipping coffee or good dark beer with a friend.  I would say that this is usually a month to try a new recipe - read a book - visit a gallery...  But this heart it is a month to get out into nature - this will be our best shot for seeing wild flowers... newts making their annual walk-about and grebes dancing on the water in their fantastic mating dance. 

Vegetarian Marinara sauce

8.  When I visit Home Depot, I see jobless men out early in the morning hoping to be selected for a days manual labor.  Imagine the discouragment; having to choose between standing hoping for work or standing by the freeway off-ramp with a sign - "Out of work, please help".  Both are dehumanizing.    Tougher still are those pushing grocery carts with all their world possessions -going through the trash cans looking for bits of lunch thrown away by those who can afford to be choosey.  Its still cold at night when you are sleeping on the street.


9. A great tree in the human forest fell this week with the death of Pete Seeger.  He inspired me and many others with his range of simple honest songs.  Please open this link for a sample  of his great songs...