Pause: a “temporary stop” according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary. The Oxford Dictionary defines “pause” as an interruption. Pause seems like a good word to describe spring on the prairie this past week. Stopped. Interrupted. Although we know this spring pause is temporary in the Chicago region, some of us are feeling cranky about it.
Spring, with all its flirtatious promises, has seemingly gone AWOL. The surge and bloom of wildflowers screeched to a halt. And just when spring was beginning to look like it was underway, right? All those tiny green wildflower leaves!
The sandhill cranes migrating north. The chorus frogs calling. Just days ago. Such a big push spring made; such clamor and green and even some blooms! And now, sunshine and blue skies have regressed to the soft patter of snowflakes and grayest gloom.
The signature song from the Disney movie “Frozen” plays relentlessly in my head (“Let the storm rage on! The cold never bothered me anyway!”) But it’s difficult to let go of my impatience for the new season to arrive.
You can spend your life wanting whatever is just out of reach, or wish for things over which you have no control. Or you can appreciate the joy of what is right in front of you and already yours. Contentment can be hard-won at this time of year. But I know what I need to do.
I quit grumbling and go for hike on the prairie.
Flakes sift into my hair; melt on my face. As I hike, the snowflakes turn into tiny icy balls. Graupel. Small white pellets of supercooled raindrops. We’ve had a lot of it this past month. The perfect transitional precipitation—not quite rain, hail,or snow. Graupel is water that just can’t make up its mind. Sort of like spring.
Under snow and ice, the familiar prairie, still unburned, takes on a transitional look of its own.
The grasses and forbs wear their winter colors, stripped to the architecture of stems and seeds. But the snow caught in their scaffolding seems a foreshadowing of the flowers to come.
The red-winged blackbirds remind me that it’s April, and not winter.
The air smells of mud, snow, and decay. Sharp. Cold and invigorating.
My head clears as I breathe in the icy air. During this past week, I’ve sampled some of the pleasures of winter again: hot drinks, a warm afghan, and a big stack of library books. Mulled over seed catalogs, but not felt any urgency to get the garden ready. There’s a sense that everything can wait.
It’s been restful, this breath of winter. This pause.
For another day or two, I’ll try and savor the stillness that a “pause” brings. Leave my garden tools in the shed. Put some whipped cream on my hot chocolate. Enjoy these last days of snow and cold.
You heard that right. Enjoy.
The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the seventies later this week.
I’m looking forward to the warmer days of spring. You too?
I’ll believe it when it happens.
Until then, I’ll try to appreciate the pause.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616), whose quote opens this blog post, was a British playwright, actor, and poet. He’s considered the world’s greatest dramatist. Few of us will make it through life without having read a play or watched a performance written by Shakespeare. Many of his phrases have fallen into common use such as “green with envy,” or “pure as the driven snow.” Check out this fun article from Mental Floss for more: 21 Phrases You Use Without Realizing You’re Quoting Shakespeare.
All photos and video copyright Cindy Crosby (top to bottom): west side prairie planting and the northern Europe Collection, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; toothwort (Dentaria laciniata or Cardamine concatenata) seedling, West Side woodland, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; bridge to upper prairie, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; wild bergamot or bee balm (Monarda fistulosa), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; bridge over Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; pale Indian plantain (Cacalia atriplicifolia or Arnoglossum atriplicifolium) with snow, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; video of Schulenberg Prairie in the snow with red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) singing, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Canada wild rye (Elymus canadensis), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; tangled vines and brambles, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; prairie and savanna, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; compass plant (Silphium laciniatum) with snow, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) and snow, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) with snow, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL. And thanks to Karen Burkwall Johnson for her observation about “snow flowers” — love that!