Monday, March 31, 2014

On the Eve of April

The hours of March are dwindling.
Shortly we hope to say good-bye to cold days, blustery winds,
and the general unsteadiness of early spring weather.
To my point, here's a NOAA image showing the wind patterns of March 21st,
the day after the Vernal Equinox:

I can't tell you how my heart looks forward to April every year.
Somehow I have equated April with warm days, sunshine,
flowers and the feeling that all is well.

Kuekenhoff Gardens in the Netherlands 
Image from

With that mental image, who wouldn't be impatient for its return?

Sunday, March 30, 2014


I'm all about looking for signs of spring these past couple of weeks.
Especially since the weather seldom presents itself as springlike--
particularly not today with its cold, drizzly self.
But I remind myself of the Chinese proverb 
that says plants recognize spring before we do.

One of those plants that recognizes spring
 is the golden yellow forsythia.
It's never been my favorite spring flower,
meaning it doesn't make my heart dance, 
but it does give a quiet reassurance that spring is finally here.
It is, isn't it?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Heavy with Rain

It appears the April showers have begun early.
The last day and a half has brought steady showers,
leaving puddles in low spots 
and making all the spring flowers heavy with rain.

My daffodils are hanging their yellow heads over
like this one in an image by photographer Denise Goldberg.
(Her blog can be accessed here: 

And my dark pink camellias, 
the ones that make me happy every time I look at them,
are also bending their heads down low.

But on a day like this, we miss 
what the flowers probably know,
that they are bowing their heads in reverence to the the rain
rather than in sorrow.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Cherry Blossoms

The famous cherry blossoms in Washington, D. C.
aren't expected to appear until early April,
but today I noticed some ornamental cherry trees
beginning to flower in my neighborhood.

Today's warm temperatures prompted many white crabapple blossoms 
to come out, but the cherry blossoms are a couple of weeks behind them.
Even so, now that the first few cherry blossoms have unfolded,
I know there's some more beauty just ahead.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Tulip Tree

As March days go, this one was pretty typical.
The day began with frigid cold that warmed to cool by afternoon.
Then blue skies and white clouds framed an afternoon of sunshine.
So I decided to walk outside
(with the pekes, of course.)

A river birch tree rose from behind a hedge along the sidewalk,
and I noticed a beautiful yellow warbler on an upper branch.
 I walked beyond the hedge for a better view of the bird.
And that's when I saw the tulip tree.
The tulip tree blossoms grow from bare branches,
so they are very eye-catching.
This tulip tree that I came upon held the most vivid fuschia tulip-shaped blossoms.

The intersection of a yellow warbler and  fuchsia-pink blossoms--
very fortunate.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March Wind: Out like a Lion?

With only a few days of March left,
I've been wondering about the old chestnut
"in like a lion, out like a lamb."
Judging from yesterday and today's cutting, blustery wind,
March plans to go out the way it came in: like a lion.

It's a good thing that there are still so many signs of spring
popping up in the Shire.
Otherwise, I might be concerned.
Here's hoping the weather becomes more lamb-like soon.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


My five pekingese love to go for a walk outside,
especially in the spring. 
They will rush through the door 
without even waiting to see if I'm with them.
But when it is raining, they crowd together on the threshold of the open door
like divers afraid to take the plunge from a high board.

Not that I blame them. 
A cold rain is almost as unpleasant as five long-haired dogs, soaking wet.
That's why we all went for a walk this morning ahead of the rain.
And there along our way, three perfect white hyacinths
planted in a row under some trees.
Hyacinths exude a lovely scent,
but apparently not one of interest to dogs.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Between Autumn and Spring

O, wind! If winter comes, 
can spring be far behind?

This past weekend, while I enjoyed the warmth and joy of spring
and entertained thoughts of planting ferns and flowers,
I reminded myself that in the Shire, 
winter rarely ends in March.
And sadly, I was correct.

Last night as I stood in the door 
and waited for my dogs to come back in the house,
I could see my breath.
This morning, a winter wind blew cold and sharp
and frost clung to leaf and grass.

Autumn to Winter to Spring is the progression of the seasons.
But sometimes, Spring is as reticent as Winter is eager.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pale Spring

So fair, so cold, like a morning of pale spring
still clinging to winter's chill.
               --J. R. R. Tolkein

Yesterday's weather was so deliciously warm and summery,
it was hard for me to imagine that it had ever been winter.
Secretly, I nurtured a naive hope that winter was finally only a memory.

Yet this morning the temperature plummeted, 
and a pallor of gray clouds obscured the sun.
By afternoon, a fitful rain began, then eased, then began again--
 the rain clouds were reluctant to commit.

But I noticed Bradford pear trees in the earliest stage of bloom,
and redbud blossoms getting close too.
So we can't complain that it's winter, 
but yes, more of a pale spring.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Chop Wood, Carry Water

There is a Zen proverb that says, 
"Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."

I've always used this directive as advice with a slightly different meaning.
When the difficult side of life presents itself,
and there's no way to fix it,
I remind myself to tend to the tasks of daily life
until conditions unfold one way or another.
Chop wood, carry water.

Photo Credit: Gary Coté 
Today, warm and sunny, life's travails at hand,
 I "chopped wood, carried water" 
by working outside cleaning up winter's decay.
And at the end of the afternoon,
spring's promise:
the tiniest purple violet poised to unfurl,
hiding itself under a leaf, tender and green.

Friday, March 21, 2014

One of the Those March Days

“It Was One Of Those March Days 
When the Sun Shines Hot 
And The Wind Blows Cold:
When It is Summer In The Light,
And Winter In The Shade.”
                     -- Charles Dickens 

My sister sent me the Dickens quote above.
I thought I'd share it in this post
since it describes today's weather so well. 

This morning, a drive through the countryside in Isle of Wight County
revealed sunny meadows and fields.
All along the highway medians, acres of henbit painted the grass deep purple.
There was a cotton field practically overrun with bronze wild turkeys.
Some strutted with their tail feathers arranged into an impressive fans,
no doubt to please their lady friends.
And several crabapple trees were beginning to flower.

To paraphrase Dickens, the sun shone hot, the wind blew cold.
That's Springtime in Virginia.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Welcome, Spring!

Ah yes, the day we have all been waiting for!
Winter is officially over and spring,
the season of hope and renewal, has arrived.
And in the Shire, the day has dawned sunny and warm.
A good beginning!

Rilke once said,
 "It is spring again. 
The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart."

Let's celebrate the poetry of spring!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Early this evening, the sky was  heavy with rain, 
and everything stood in shades of gray:  sky so dark gray, 
but light gray where the street lights shone through the mist.
It was a fine misty rain like yesterday's, 
only this one wasn't wind-driven.

As I was coming home in this,
 I drove toward the Berkley Bridge in downtown Norfolk.
 I knew the harbor and surrounding buildings would be enveloped in a steel-gray mist,
which is always one of my favorite things.
But as I crossed, the familiar gave way to something I'd never seen before.
The metal roof of a shipyard warehouse reflected the surrounding lights, 
and revealed hundreds of white sea gulls resting on the long roof.
I guess flying isn't everything.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March Rain

After work, I walked out the door 
and was nearly blown away by the force of the wind.
Not just any wind, a determined wind, one soaked with misty rain.
One of those famous March winds that whips everything around
for its own amusement: bending umbrellas, pulling off scarves,
throwing car doors open with force.

But in the dry, warm car I am less annoyed with the rainy wind
and more mesmerized by it.
It blows straight across the flat landscape,
unafraid to engage everything in its path.

The March Wind  by Robert Henri

Then I watch it tap out a kind of rainy Morse code on my windows.
Across the windshield, it blows dashes of rain.
Against the driver's window, dots and dots and dots of clear rain.
Perhaps a message is in there somewhere.

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
The arrival of St. Patrick's Day in March
gives us a good reason to celebrate
that sometimes uncomfortable interval between winter and spring.
We can dream of emerald green landscapes, 
fields of shamrocks,
and smiling Irish eyes.

It's such a fun holiday, 
it makes me glad I'm part Irish.
Of course on St. Patrick's Day,
they say everyone is.
So celebrate the day as you will,
but don't forget: 

Éirinn go Brách!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Winter to Spring

No matter where I've lived around the U. S.,
people always say if you don't like the weather now,
just wait a minute and it will change.
I was thinking of that today
when, still basking in the glow of yesterday's warm spring day,
I heard of the advisory for winter storm "Wiley," 
which includes snow and rain for a large swath of the country,
including Tidewater Virginia.

It occurs to me that the change from winter to spring is seldom easy.
We expect that the seasons should arrive in neat, fenced off parcels
that are easily placed end to end. One stops. One starts.
But winter to spring is really more of a back then forth, 
a to then fro,
an up then down,
a right then left and right again.
Like a reel.
In our case, a Virginia reel.

Like it or not, apparently winter 
intends  at least one more do-si-do.
We may not want to dance with it again,
but we may as well enjoy the music.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Surprise Daffodils

Today's warmth coaxed lots of spring flowers out of hiding.
Masses of deep purple henbit covered  swaths of ground,
yellow dandelions dotted the landscape,
sprinklings of  tiny blue creeping flowers 
whose name I never can recall wandered along sidewalks.
And even the tiniest of tree branches 
were tipped with ruby red, budding leaves.

As lovely as all that is, 
I can't think of any that were more beautiful than the daffodils.
They seemed to pop open everywhere.
And the places they grow always surprise me.
I saw a clump of daffodils all alone on the shoulder of the interstate.

More daffodils bloomed along the inky black, tannin-rich water of a tree-lined creek.
They leaned so far over the water, it looked like they were growing in the mud.
And another bunch seemed to grow right out of the dead wood of a tree stump.

Daffodils are a familiar sight in spring,
but they never fail to delight
--and sometimes, to surprise.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Restless Wind

There is something about March 
that makes me restless.
In February, it's obviously still winter, 
so I bide my time.
But when March 1st arrives,
I get in a hurry for spring.

Today has been windy and cold.
But with a gorgeous sunny day and blue sky,
hopping robins
and daffodils swaying and bobbing in the wind,
it makes me even more impatient for spring.
Perhaps soon, 
one of those warm, sunny spring-like days
will show up unannounced
and I can quiet this restless wind swirling around me.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Wild Onions

Tiny green clumps of wild onions
dot the landscape every spring
and when the cold wind blows,
their long slender stalks bend easily to the ground.

They aren't very glamorous,
but they are one of the things I consider to be an encouraging sign of spring.
They aren't allowed to live very long in the suburban landscape,
since they are considered weeds.
But they are a member of the amaryllis family,
so welcoming them this time of year
 doesn't seem so unreasonable. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

And Winter Returns

The sunny skies turned gray today
as the temperature began its plummet from 70 degrees
to a predicted 30 overnight.
Despite the cheerful busy-ness of the wrens,
winter has reasserted itself.

I suppose another turn at winter was inevitable, 
with true spring still two weeks hence.
But I'll take solace in the words of the poet Shelley:
O, wind. If winter comes, can spring be far behind?
Even if it doesn't feel like it tonight,
I'm sure spring is unfolding around us.
Sometimes you just have to trust the wrens.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

One Joy

It's been a very long cold winter,
but the last couple of days in the Shire
have been nothing but sunshine and warmth.
Warm spring air
makes everyone feel a little younger, a little more energetic,
a little more optimistic.

And today I indulged in a little sun time outdoors.
There is nothing more delightful than lying in the sun
on a warm spring day 
before the green pollen sifts down over everything.

Today, winter seemed so very far away.
There is a Chinese proverb:
one joy scatters a thousand sorrows.
Yes, one beautiful spring afternoon
erases a thousand winter memories.

Monday, March 10, 2014

When Spring is in the Air

My husband and I share our home 
with five small Pekingese dogs (long story).
Pekingese are not the most athletic of dogs.
When they walk, they prefer to amble,
stopping every few feet to sniff out interesting aromas
that we can't smell.

 Xiao Xiao Jie "Missy"

And they are willful, stubborn little dogs, too.
Walking  our two girls is often akin to dragging two concrete blocks 
down the sidewalk. Every footstep is a negotiation.

But when spring is in the air
and the day is warm and the grass tender and green,
they run like like reindeer gliding over roof tops--
full of energy and delight,
their feet barely even touching the ground.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Daylight Saving Time 2014

This morning in the wee hours, 
most of us in the Northern Hemisphere 
moved our clocks ahead one hour.
I'm sure most people have mixed feelings about Daylight Saving Time, as I do.
I do like coming home from work in the daylight--
that's an advantage.
And when the summer is in full swing, 
an extra hour of light is appreciated.

But the first day of Daylight 'Saving' is such an annoyance.
Waking at 5 o'clock in the morning,
we wrestle with the knowledge that it's really only four o'clock.
At noon we aren't hungry,
at ten p.m. we aren't tired.
Oh, how I loathe that feeling of being 
completely out of step for the first few days.

The Persistence of Memory by Salvatore Dali:

Maybe we need to change the name from Daylight Saving Time
to the name used in the United Kingdom and Northern Europe:
British Summer time and European Summer time, respectively.

Thinking of this as "summer" time instead of "daylight saving" time
puts a whole new spin on the question.
It sounds like we have switched from  <yawn> 
our quotidian, standard existence
to our full of good times SUMMER existence.

I'm feeling better already.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Watching the Tree

This morning when I awoke, 
I looked out the window at the bare tree branches.
They were bathed in the gold of a morning sun.
Finally! There is nothing more reassuring 
than the trees wreathed in morning light.
On the other hand, It's a good idea to keep your eye on the trees
--especially fig trees.

Today was spring-like,
so later I walked in the yard over by the fig tree.
For years now, the roots of the fig tree 
have circled away from the trunk in an orderly fashion:

A few days ago, my husband and I noticed
that one of the fig's roots had taken off.
Visible along the top of the ground, 
the root reached straight out about 10 feet. 

It made me wonder if it might eventually get out of hand,
like this fig tree root in Cambodia:

Let's hope it doesn't.

Friday, March 7, 2014

And Now a Nor'Easter

Strange weather we have been having here in the Shire.
Winter arrived and stayed and stayed and stayed.
And now a late winter nor'easter has muscled its way in
lest the snow and ice get all the attention.
A nor'easter brings soaking rains and high winds
that circle in from the northeast, 
hence the name.

This photo of  a Winter 2010 Nor'Easter shows the northeast spiral:
File:Christmas nor'easter 2010Dec27.jpg

The rain splashes against the windows. The wind whistles at the doors.
Occasional rumbles of thunder break through.
It's not the spring I hoped for,
but it sure makes for a cozy evening
when we're all tucked inside,
weathering the storm

Thursday, March 6, 2014

March Wind

I was reminded these last couple of days
of the old adage for March:
"in like a lion, out like a lamb."
All I can say is I hope that it's still true.

Google images

The last two days the wind has blown bitterly cold.
Dark gray clouds move rapidly across the sky 
or hang suspended and heavy above everything.
Tonight, the wind roared over the trees.

Later, I ran across this quote 
from Lucretius, 
author of "On the Nature of Things":

Air, I should explain, becomes wind 
when it is agitated.

I can attest to that.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Huddle of Robins

Our weather remains uncharacteristically polar.
Snow, ice, and cold have been our companions for some time now.
Everyone I talk to says the same things:
"This is not Tidewater weather" and "When will it all end?"

I thought of that Tuesday when I drove through a parking lot
and saw a congregation of a dozen robins,
feet in the snow, all huddled under the protection of a shrub.
A most unusual sight, it was.
And if they could talk, 
I imagine they wouldn't even mention the weather
or a longing for spring.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mardi Gras 2014

I saw the most beautiful Mardi Gras mask
in a store over the weekend.
It was purple and gold with glitter and wispy feathers and sequins.
And there was a green one too.

Just the thing to wear to a masked ball 
in celebration of Fat Tuesday, the traditional last day to enjoy 
all the vices you intend to abstain from during Lent.

Here in the Shire, Mardi Gras isn't a big celebration,
so there are few places that decorate or hold commemorative events.
But if you are feeling particularly festive,
you can always wear a mask while you eat dinner
and then toss a few strands of beads at your pets.
You may not be on St. Charles Avenue, 
but you can still let the good times roll!

Monday, March 3, 2014

When Winter Remains

Let's face it. 
Once March arrives,
winter is supposed to begin its departure.
Cool, damp, even rainy weather is tolerated
because we know that spring is coming in less than three weeks.

It started snowing and I had to get a shot of it Photo by ArmyMom102

But when sleet and snow arrive on March 3rd, 
speckling the windows with tiny bits of ice,
and closing schools and businesses yet again--
there is a sense that winter has become the annoying house guest 
that refuses to leave.

But every snow cloud has a silver lining.
Early this afternoon as the sleet turned to snow,
I saw a beautiful bright red cardinal sitting in an evergreen tree.
The cardinal's red feathers stood out from the rich green leaves,
and the undisturbed white snow covered the ground below.

It reminded me of something a friend said to me the year I lived in Wisconsin
after I expressed irritation that snow was falling in late April.
"Yes," she said. "But the crocus will look so lovely in the snow."
I recall that sometimes when I grow winter-weary.
She's right, we shouldn't be irritated by winter's trickery.
But a little dismay?
That seems fair.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Songs of Spring

In my house, there is a quiet room 
with a line of three windows that face east.
It's a good spot for having a cup of coffee
and watching the morning sun grow brighter.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
Photo: 2012, 

As on many mornings, this morning I sat with my coffee and watched the sun.
But this time, a robin serenaded me.
It flew to the highest peak of an evergreen tree in our front yard
and sang a strong and vibrant song.
So strong, in fact, that I looked twice to make sure it wasn't a mockingbird.

And because the day was very much like early spring,
I ate breakfast near the open back door.
A wren sang its little heart out the whole time.
There's something special about spring.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


A house with daffodils in it is a house lit up
whether or no the sun be shining outside.
                                      --A. A. Milne

Again, the weather is cold,
and snow and rain may arrive in a day or two.

But when I went out to run some errands this morning,
I noticed daffodils already in bloom in neighbors' yards.
And it occurs to me that today is March 1st
and spring is drawing near.
The flowers seem to know that already.