Friday, March 5, 2010

SUNSHINE IN THE SNOW


Nothing warms a winter-weary heart more than the first wildflowers of the new year—especially when those blooms are a jolly egg-yolk yellow, as bright and cheerful as a sudden burst of sunshine. Simple magic, perhaps, but I never fail to feel joyfully renewed when I make my first visit of the new year to a favorite patch of winter anconite and find them decorating their corner of the woods—often surrounded by snow.


That's the setting I found this time around when I walked the snow-covered trail back to their half-acre woodland hideout. I don't know their history—who planted them, or when the first handful of tiny bulbs were slipped gently into the rich woodland humus a stone's throw from the river. It must have been a long time ago, perhaps well before the end of the Nineteenth Century. I've known about this particular patch of winter anconites practically all my life. 

As a boy, I remember accompanying my father to this stretch of riverine woods when he made his earliest-of-the-season angling forays. It was much too early for dependable fishing, but Dad was tired of sitting at his basement workbench tying bass and panfish flies. Cabin fever could not be curtailed by common sense or the threat of frostbite. It was March by the calendar and any angler worthy of the name knew March was a "fishing" month. Excuse aplenty. The yellow flowers were always out when we made that initial trip.


Generally, winter anconites are not usually thought of as wildflowers. They're not natives, but rather naturalized from Asia Minor and Europe. Unlike, say, lesser celandine—another naturalized small yellow flower that's also a member of the buttercup family, which is practically taking over certain streambanks, to the detriment of native species—winter anconites are still found mostly in home gardens. I suspect the plants in this patch are the progeny of anconites planted by someone who had a home nearby—though I've never found any evidence of a farmstead—neither rotting timbers, rusty well pipe, scattered foundation stones, or even a depression in the leaf litter and briar tangles indicating an old cellar hole. 

This morning, the temperature was 16˚F when I fed the birds. It remained below freezing when I decided to take my walk. The ground, in many places, was still covered with snow. No matter. I was being stirred by the same urge that once brought my father out to investigate the seasonal progression. I left my own fly rod in the closet this time around; instead I carried only a camera. But the destination was as familiar as the sound of the cardinals in the thickets, and the purl of water over rocks.


When I rounded the bend I saw, between morning shadows and drifts of snow, patches of leaf-strewn brown earth now spangled with yellow. Ahhh-h! I couldn't help but smile. Somewhere inside a window opened and warm light began to flood my spirit.

Sunshine in the snow. What a gift! Winter anconites, planted long ago, by an unknown gardner, again proclaim the turning season—once more in yellow splendor they lift my heart and whisper their vernal message to my soul.

Thank you!

——————      

26 comments:

Bernie said...

Grizz I truly needed a warm and hopeful post as I found here today. Thank you.
I love these little yellow flowers and your walk along the riverbank. You have given hope and light to these tired old eyes today.
Have a wonderful weekend..:-) Hugs

Wanda said...

I went out searching this morning for hints of spring, my daffodils are up about 6 inches, but no egg-yolk yellow was seen by me. Your photos are uplifting and a promise of what's soon to come. The birds were full of song though and two hawks circled the field, which is very wet at the moment!

Tom said...

Nice.....the second report of the day I've encountered, the first was from PA, glad to know they're blooming in Ohio too, they're certainly a great marker for us botanists. But that means I need to get ready!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

Sight of these winter anconites made me feel better, for sure. I'm glad you liked the post and pictures. Take care…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

My daffodils are up, too—though not close to blooming. Crocus should be flowering within a couple of weeks. My neighbor up the street has a wooded bank white with snowdrops. I'm going to put some some of those snowdrops out this fall for next spring, and some more squills, but also winter anconites, as I've decided yellow looks much better after winter than white.

I saw two redtails here this morning, and my first turkey vulture of the season yesterday plus three more today. Still a lot of snow here, maybe 50/50.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Tom…

I'm sure the skunk cabbage is up, too. I don't see many winter anconites other than in garden plantings; seldom find them anywhere else except around old farmsteads. There are lots of snow trilliums at a couple of sites not far from here. I need to check those out nest week.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Rebirth! Color! Evidence of life emerging from sleep. A miracle! Thanks for sharing it - especially for those of us 500(?) miles further north who will be waiting a while for such sweet smiling faces.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bonnie…

It can happen quicker than you think…you ought to have seen this place a week ago. And it may snow again here next week. But truly, the earth spins and tilts and travels it's eternal path—and spring is coming for sure.

The Solitary Walker said...

Came home to winter aconites in our garden... crocuses now pushing through... it's been a long winter.

Lovely post.

Rowan said...

What a beautiful sight, they are such a wonderful colour. In our woods the native lesser celandine is just beginning to push one or two leaves through the soil and there is no sign at all of the yellow carpet that will be there in a few weeks. That splash of sunshine yellow always lifts the spirits as your aconites have done.

Tramp said...

By Friday the snow had all but disappeared here. Last weekend the boys (11 year old son and 6 year old step grandson) came with the dog and me and we brought home some twigs. The boys put them in water to watch for signs of spring, the first buds to open were the elder. Overnight to Saturday we've had about 4 inches of new snow and it's still coming down and the wind is blowing it about but there something about the light that tells me the season is on the turn.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

Better than the rain in Spain, eh?

Nothing blooming in my garden…yet. But I was just out with the dog as it was getting to be daylight, and all but a few patches of snow in the main yards have gone; along the bank and in the brushier areas, however, the white persists.

Winter has not been especially harsh here, this time around, but IU'm ready to start thinking spring. Though experience says to expect another dose or two of winter before it's over.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

I have a large section of flourishing lesser celandine here in the yard, and love their jaunty yellow carpet, though they are very invasive in many places along the river. I haven't yet noticed even a hint of them coming up. Of course, two days ago the area was under six inches of snowpack.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Tramp…

Sometimes spring arrives in smooth progression; at others, it comes in starts and stutters. In spite of yesterday's flowers and today's continued sunshine, I'm not convinced winter is full done with us yet. But as you say, the changing light heralds the changing season.

Keep the faith!

Jayne said...

Sunshine in the snow... I love that. Indeed, that is exactly what it looks like. I am sure whoever planted them felt the same way. :c)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

The photos don't show it, but those anconites were surrounded by a solid expanse of snow, 6-8 inches deep (really hard-packed ice) in every direction, and the only open ground was what you see. Coming up to that flower-filled bare patch was like coming up to a window filled with yellow sunshine. And I do annually thank that long-gone gardner for planting them.

Jenn Jilks said...

Wow! What I love about following those in the US is seeing spring slowly creep north to us in Central Ontario. We still have a frozen lake, but I can smell spring.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

I wonder how many of us, who live south of you, now are paying special attention to those who blog from farther south, for regular proof positive of spring's ever-northward progression? I do, and I know others do. We all want to see and know spring is on its way.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

I love,love the pictures of Springtime flowers,colors and promise of warmth and healing. My weary heart needs it. Gracey-Blue and I sat by the pond in the sun today. She was busy looking and digging and sniffing and I was enjoying the sounds of the ponds dwellers, and the rustle of leaves in the breeze, the sun shining and the blue sky above me. It was glorious.I love that I have my 'ever-day-rollator' so accessible for treks around the pond and the woods edge and by the brook. I feel much safer than just with the cane and I can stop and rest as needed. phew.

I loved yor view today too Grizz- what you saw and felt in your heart and as I held you hand and walked by your side I felt a brother-sister connection that was pure and wonderful. Thank you for ebing the big brother I never had.

Love you
Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

I'm so glad to hear you and Gracey-Blue got out and sat in the sunshine beside the pond. Just wait for another month—the times the two of you will have exploring spring!

Being an only child, I don't know anything about the task of being an big brother…but it would be both my pleasure and honor to be allowed to try.
Thank you.

Robin said...

You are the second blogger today to have taken pictures of yellow hope springing up nearby. Both of you live just a bit south of me... We still have crusts of snow.

I'm going to have to think. Your description of knowing the place the anconites live, having known it forever and turning a corner to find them still there and blooming at the right time resonates with me. It makes no sense, as I left 'home' a long time ago, and will never go back to live there. And here in the city? It's hard to go back to the same 'natural' place twice.

I have to ask. Being relatively new to your blog....

Was your stone house by the river a part of your family, growing up? If not, did you see it as you explored with your Dad?

Oh, to live on a piece of land that was bone-deep familiar....

(Sigh.)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Robin…

I understand that resonating sense you're experiencing, a strange naggling of familiarity without reason, almost of déjà vu.

To answer your questions, no, to the best of my recollections I never saw this stone house before I looked it over prior to purchase. I did see other stone houses built by the same four generations of stonemasons—a couple no more than a hundred yards from this one. But not this one on the river.

The place where the winter anconites grow is upstream from here, well back from any road or farm lane. My father liked to fish for smallmouth bass in a stretch of water that's adjacent to where the flowers flourish. On these early fishing trips—when I couldn't be amused by catching sunfish with my usual cane pole and redworms—Dad would turn me loose in the woods beside the river, where I'd poke into hollow sycamores (of which there were many, some big enough inside to hold a several men), throw rocks, and just generally run wild…though more or less under reasonable observation. Anyway, that's where I first saw this particular patch of early anconites. So I've literally known them all my life.

But most of this river, and two or three other nearby creeks, are almost as familiar to me as my boyhood backyard. I've waded and canoed every inch of this 60-mile-plus river, and many sections I've been on dozens, even hundreds, of times. So it does run bone-deep with me, very much a part of my personal history and a great influence in shaping me into who I am.

Carolyn H said...

However those lovely little flowers got where they are, they are a lovely sight. It's hard to believe they are blooming already!

Carolyn H

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

For whatever reason, they're always the earliest patch of their kind to bloom hereabouts. In another day or two, an acre or more in this woods will be yellow with anconites. When I photographed the ones in the post last Friday (though the photos don't show it) all the rest of the area was covered with thick, hard snowpack. What's odd is that even on years when there isn't any snow, this little patch are the first up to show their merry yellow blooms. Don't know why, because they're not south-facing or more protected. Regardless, they are always a welcome sight.

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

What a lovely sight and fond memories this patch has for you...thanks for sharing the story, as well as the photos.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Teri…

There's nothing like seeing the first blooms of spring…and nothing like seeing them in a familiar and beloved old woods.