BUMPER CROP of Tree Circles

Molly.ROTATE

Fully aware that Molly is sideways (blog options not cooperating), but even from this angle you can see she’s got a taste for burgeoning spring

 

What joy—enough snow melted so that Molly and I could foot the mile to town without fearing the need to dive into tall snowdrifts should 2 cars come down the narrow street simultaneously! Yes, there they were—a bumper crop of tree circles where before there was only a scant sprouting.

TreeCirclesBridgeSt

As I walked I found myself feeling sorry for those in eternally temperate climes, because they can’t experience the happy release that comes with the long-awaited start of spring thaw. It’s a tenuous joy that comes, because there may be more snow, but maybe that makes the first moderately warm moments even sweeter.

I thought of the Dar Williams song Sometimes Southern California Wants to Be Western New York, and also of my favorite Robert Frost Poem, My November Guest (excerpts from each below):

There’s a part of the country
Could drop off tomorrow in an earthquake
Yeah, it’s out there on the cutting edge
The people move, the sidewalks shake

And there’s another part of the country
With a land that gently creaks and thuds
Where the heavy snows make faucets leak
In bathrooms with free-standing tubs…

…And it wants to have a snow day
That will turn its parents into kids

And it’s embarrassed, but it’s lusting
After a SUNY student with mousy brown hair who is
Taking out the compost
Making coffee in long underwear

 

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist…

Both of these bards remind me of that part of me that loves and welcomes the coldness and barrenness of winter. It is a time for hunkering down and thinking about things and venturing into inner space, and there certainly is a quiet beauty to the bare tree branches and making coffee in long underwear. That being said, it gets OLD for most of us–to the point of familiarity breeds contempt!. And as hardy as I tried to make myself this winter, my natural instinct was to stay off the ice and keep the chill away by donning layers of baggy sweaters and eating warm things.

How lovely to see the world waking up as I am, again alert to what’s going on beyond the confines of my snowed-in street. Long live tree circles, their widening embrace, and eventual disappearance as all the melt goes underground to feed their budding source.

Longing for Tree Circles

We’re sharing a good book in the family. Backyard Almanac  gives an entry on “Northern natural history” for every day of the year. Technically I think the “Northern” to which the author refers is more in the vicinity of upper Minnesota and Southern Canada, but close enough—most of the milestones and species are something to which we here in Deep River can relate.

The entry for March 1 was about tree circles, one of many natural phenomena of which I have probably on some level been aware but hadn’t thought about too much before. Larry Weber writes:

The sunlight reflects off snow, but not off dark tree bark, which absorbs heat from the lengthening light and gently radiates it back to the surrounding snow creating ‘tree circles.’ Snow melt may extend out from the trees…to as much as a foot. On tree trunks, plants like mosses get a peek at sunlight for the first time in months, and animals so long beneath the snow have an opportunity to emerge into fresh air and daylight.

I got excited about impending spring plant life resurrections when I Googled around a bit more about tree circles. A Q &A in an archived New York Times Science section reminds me that “Some emerging herbaceous plants, like those growing from bulbs, produce heat to melt snow in order to more easily break through it in the springtime…This is most famously true of skunk cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, likely our earliest-blooming herbaceous native…Some flowering trees also produce heat, likely to melt frost or snow present on their buds.”

I was tickled by the tree circles topic because it’s unique and a little offbeat and warm, but as Ecclesiastes reminds us, there is nothing new under the sun. Here’s a great blog on the same topic, but I can’t be too jealous of these authors getting there first, because they are a pretty fascinating bunch who seem ultrasmart and science-y in ways that I will never be (but deeply admire).

Unlike these scientists, I will not be intensely studying or positing theories of evolution or alternatives to it. But I do have something in common with them.  I will be PAYING ATTENTION, especially to those tree circles. (I checked today—there are not yet ripples of shallower, soil-tinged  snow popping up around my pines and oaks. But temperatures are gradually trending in an encouraging direction).

About attention, Mary Oliver said it best:

Attention is the beginning of devotion.

Olivia Newton-John also said (well, sang) something well, about being utterly and Hopelessly Devoted. That’s how I feel about spring at this point. Hopelessly devoted to the promise of tree circles and the spring that will expand around us as they move outward into the sun.