Monday, April 22, 2013

skunk river torrent

skunk river torrent
spread out over the floodplain
marooning houses

A week after the rainstorm, the Skunk River is still flooding. On the way back from our concert in Mt. Pleasant, we stop by Oakland Mills, where the river runs through the recreation area. The whole park is under water.

Barriers have been set up where the roads on either side of the river are deluged.

The green roof of a gazebo seems to float on the water, the rest submerged. A house built on stilts is marooned amid trees poking up out of the torrent. 

The park signs look funny surrounded by water. Absolutely NO PARKING ON GRASS. WARNING! NO ONE ALLOWED IN WATER BEYOND THIS POINT.

An SUV packed with a large family of locals pulls up by the old bridge and two men jump out with fishing poles. The woman comes over to where we're staring at a four-foot carp floating at the edge of the water
          "Did you just get married?" she asks, staring at our John's tux and my long black dress.
          "Oh, no, we just sang in a concert at the United Methodist Church in Mt. Pleasant." 
          She looks so disappointed that we're not newlyweds, so I change the subject. "How bad did it get here?"
          "Worst we've ever seen. Water was even higher just a few days ago."
          The men are now standing at the edge of the roadway, casting their lines into the water near a pile of dead fish on the pavement. 
          "Some folks just like to snag the fish but don't eat them," the woman explains. "They're carp, full of bones. You've got to bake them for a long time until the bones dissolve. But our favorite fish is spoonies."
          "Spoonies? Never heard of them. What do they look like?"
          "Spoonbills. They've got smooth skin like catfish and these funny bills. Best tasting fish I ever ate."
          Later I learn that there really are "spoonies." Also called spoonbills or paddle fish or spoonbill catfish, these large fish have a long spatula-shaped snout, and cartilage instead of bones. No wonder they like to eat them, no bones!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

thunderstorm all day

thunderstorm all day --
white ice marbles hopping,
brown water floods the creek

"April showers bring May flowers," so the saying goes. But today, all day, it's been an April thunderstorm. Thunder wakes me around 5 in the morning. Then in mid-morning the sound of heavy rain on the roof changes and I look out to see white ice marbles hopping around as they hit the green grass like small white grasshoppers. During the hail storm, I count the interval between lightning and the loud thunderclap -- only one second. On the way home I stop to watch the glut of brown water flooding over the banks of Pilgrim Creek, engulfing trees and spreading out into the surrounding fields. Bedtime and it's still raining.

Rain all night and again today, though much lighter than yesterday. All the farm ponds, half empty from the drought last summer, are now overflowing. The shore end of the bridge to the little island on Adam's Pond is submerged, but the big water-guzzling willow, chartreuse leaves trailing in the water, looks delighted.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

windy April day

windy April day --
pussy willow catkins toss
white fur, red antlers

On a windy April day, I go out to fill the bird feeder and find the French pussy willow (Salix caprea) full of fuzzy buds. They look like furry pussy cats perched on a branch, or a gathering of Dr. Seuss characters with tousled fur and red antlers, or green pincushions bristling with red-headed pins. The buds are actually the male catkins of the willow and the red antlers on white filaments are the anthers of individual flowers within the catkin. I bring a few inside for the fun of watching the buds slowly expand as they blossom.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

after the rainstorm

after the rainstorm
daffodils bend to the ground
faces splattered with soil

Not just April showers but a heavy rainstorm yesterday, bending the daffodils to the ground and splattering their yellow faces with soil. More heavy clouds today and a cold wind pushing the temperatures down as well, expected to hit freezing tonight. So this afternoon I cut 108 daffodils to save them from the hard frost. A stream of clear gelatinous sap ran from each hollow stem, which I immediately plunged into a vase. When I brought them inside and placed them on the dining table, their bright faces lifted as if the warm sun had come out. By the time light and warmth reappear, these daffodils will return to the earth as compost for their own bulbs and the microorganisms that feed them in turn.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

dead leaf giving way

dead leaf giving way
to eager green leaves thrusting
upward to the light

Way too hot for early April. It feels like we've gone from winter to summer overnight. The daffodils are exploding in bursts of yellow and white against the dull brown remains of last year's litter. You can almost hear the spears of leaf and bud thrusting up, piercing dirt, dead leaves and even corrugated cardboard. How powerful and persistent is the force of sap!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

sweet scent of purple

sweet scent of purple
hyacinth's curly florets 
blooming by the front door

The luscious fragrance of Hyacinth is one of those scents that takes me back to childhood. And so, like my mother, every year I plant a few bulbs in a pot to "force" them to bloom indoors. Then on warm spring days, I set the pot outside the front door. The intense aroma draws our neighbor's honeybees into the vibrant magenta and deep indigo throats of the many small blossoms. In the evening I set the pot on the dining table and the intoxicating perfume quickly permeates the whole house, lingering even after I put the pot back outside in the morning. And every day I eagerly watch as each silvery spear of buds emerges from the encasing green leaves and slowly unfolds a pom pom of curly purple florets.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

a muster of crows

a muster of crows
roosting on the water tower --
storytelling time

A muster of black crows have been flocking every evening to the biggest tree in town, the blue water tower. Dozens of intelligent corvids line up along the circular railing like voyagers on a ship, waiting for the sun to set so the storytelling can begin. Perhaps it will be a murder mystery, since these scavengers are keen on anything to do with dead bodies. And what would we do without them to clean up our road kill?