Take cheer! Spring is out there somewhere, not too far over the horizon — and it’s heading our way!
But take a look and see for yourself. You have more time to do so because dawn is arriving earlier, while twilight lingers a bit longer. We’re gaining light on both ends — and we’ve already added over half an hour of additional daylight since February’s beginning, and will gain another 37 minutes by the time the month ends!
Yup — that light at the end of winter’s tunnel is definitely increasing!
February’s burgeoning light is a visible sign you can trust — proof positive of the slow upward climb that began at the winter solstice. Expanding days which the ancients viewed as evidence of the sun’s mystical and wondrous return — though we prosaically-minded moderns scientifically explain away as merely the result of earth’s cyclical tilt back towards our life-allowing star.
February’s obviously waxing days are fundamentally reassuring in a way that’s impossible to equal simply by checking dates on the calendar. An example of ageless and significant heart knowledge — which always trumps clinically-cold head knowledge.
This value of sensitivity and cognizance goes to the heart of human belief, yet it also seems endemic to many other living creatures, too.
Here along the river, the Canada geese are getting noisy and belligerent. They engage in lots of loud and raucous territorial squabbles, with lots of protective male posturing. Ganders flap and honk and tirelessly chase any and all perceived rivals around and around. Soon the pairs will select a nest site — and after that get down to the serious business of laying and incubating their clutch of eggs.
But between now and then, it’s not the sort of behavior you can miss or easily ignore. As a writer, I’m pretty good at mentally closing myself off from outside distractions when I need to concentrate. But every year, the vernal stirrings and squabbles of our Cottage Pool geese are beyond my ability to disregard. Writing becomes slower and more difficult.
Could it be love-crazed geese are to blame for the long list of famous authors with infamous drinking problems?
Backyard gray squirrels are just as biologically attuned to this eternal seasonal progression. Only days ago their treetop gamboling was nothing more than simple games of reckless tag.
Now, however, the overtones of the sport have changed, inspired by their own procreative urgency. Frisky play has turned into mating chases. A few weeks hence, in the cozy darkness of a hollow sycamore limb, a new litter of young gray squirrels will be born — though they won’t venture out of their secure nests for another six to eight weeks.
Moonlit nights are apt to be filled with the mating calls of great horned owls. Shivery, booming hoots that speak not of dire secrets but of domesticity. Owls will often be on the nest before March.
Sometimes, when the moon is bright and winter’s winds have momentarily stilled, when all is quiet and you happen to be afield and listening amid the cold February darkness, you might hear the sharp, clear yips of a male red fox seeking an agreeable vixen. Bright, silk-spun notes, unlike their regular hunting bark, conveying a “let’s get together” request.
A vernal prophecy, in a way. A natural, inherent conviction — predicated by the future — propelled that yipping dog fox into setting out on his quest of seeking a mate.
During these lengthening, last-of-winter days, I try and go afield for at least a short ramble as often as I can — both to help quell the restless incursion of cabin fever and also to keep an eye on the seasonal progression.
In the nearby woods where I usually walk, cheery robins were recently taking full advantage of an interlude of milder weather.
Every square foot of ground beneath a huge tangled thicket of mixed honeysuckle and blackberry briars seemed to be occupied by a sprightly robin. And every red-breasted bird was busily engaged in one or another of the usual robin drills.
One might be listening, head cocked, sharp eyes scrutinizing the duff at their feet. Another scratching about like a barnyard chicken. Others leaned forward, quick-trotted a few yards, dodging vines and canes, to a different small bit of open ground, where they’d pause to listen and scratch before starting the routine all over again.
I couldn’t tell whether those robins were finding much of edible interest. But they seemed to be enjoying the hunt, perhaps gladdened by the feel of earth underfoot.
Winter might endure a while longer. We could still see another round of sleet and snow. But winter is definitely on the way out, having its final hurrah.
Change is a’comin’! Spring will soon be here. Just keep the faith and don’t lose heart!