“March came in that winter like the meekest and mildest of lambs, bringing days that were crisp and golden and tingling, each followed by a frosty pink twilight… .” ―L. M. Montgomery
In like a lamb. The first day of March is mild and the forecast shows more of the same. Sunshine, a few clouds. Temperatures that will stretch and hit 50 degrees. The Farmer’s Almanac tells us if March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb. Is the reverse true—will it go out like a lion, then? We’ll find out in a few weeks. Spring is a work in progress.
Wait, what? Spring? Today—March 1—is the first day of meteorological spring and this year, it’s also Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday. Astronomical spring is March 20, so go ahead — celebrate the first day of spring twice! In the Midwest, March is the month for snow and longer hours of sunlight, for the Northern Hemisphere’s vernal equinox, for tornadoes and the first woodland and prairie wildflowers, for St. Patrick’s Day and Lent, and in some years, Easter. Originally, it was the first month of the old Roman calendar. In my garden, March is the month of snowdrops and crocus blooms. Hyacinth and daffodil shoots peek through the prairie dropseed along the warmest side of the house.
This weekend, as Sunday drew to a close, Jeff and I went for a hike at Blackwell Forest Preserve. In winter, it’s a favorite spot for ice fishing and snow tubing. In the summer, kayaks and small motorboats ply the biggest lake as families fish and picnic along the shoreline.
Blackwell is also the site of the Urban Stream Research Center, where the federally-endangered Hine’s Emerald dragonfly is being reared in its nymph stage. When the dragonflies are ready to transform from nymph to adult, they are taken to selected locations and released. The Hine’s Emerald adult dragonfly is on my must-see list. I hope 2022 is the year. I’ve only seen the nymph.
Difficult to believe this nymph will become a beautiful dragonfly, isn’t it? Take a look here to see it in its adult stage.
Tonight, a few archery enthusiasts are out and about the preserve, practicing their skills. A lone ice fisherman collects his gear and heads for his truck. The parking lot is still full of cars, despite the gathering dark. Where is everyone? Perhaps others are out on the trails like we are, enjoying the last half hour before closing time and heading home to start the work week.
As we begin our hike, I admire the prairie restoration signs. I don’t remember seeing them before, or that “prairie” was brought to the attention of visitors. Yay!
I’m happy to spy many of my favorite prairie plants. Switchgrass, turning luminous in last light.
Indian grass limns the shoreline.
A small stand of evening primrose stands out against the grasses.
Wild blackberry canes thread through the prairie plantings, adding a welcome bit of color. I admire the red, even though as a prairie steward, I know how aggressive this native can be.
An alien-looking finger of mullein, ringed with ragged leaves, points toward the sky.
Wild bergamot still holds its minty scent.
The air smells like melting snow and mud.
Cold and exhilarating.
It’s almost closing time, so we turn around and start back to the parking lot. But we can’t resist a detour to the bridge.
There, we watch the sunset and scan the frozen water. The tracks on the lake are human, dark and slushy.
I wonder how recent these footprints are? With the temperatures warming, the ice would have been tricky. Were they foolhardy kids? Or were the footprints made much earlier in the week, when the temperatures were bitter and the lake was frozen solid? Difficult to say.
Someone left a message.
Sweet! I don’t know if mom would have been happy they were out there, but I’m sure she would appreciate the sentiment.
The sun drops behind the trees.
On the opposite side of the lake, the sky becomes a lavender haze.
We head back to the car. What a pleasant way to end the day! A hike at the forest preserve with prairie plants all around, and new preserve signs showing intentions for future prairie restoration.
Signs of hope.
“A work in progress.” After a week of stunned disbelief watching world events, I needed the peace and solace of a sunset prairie hike and a reminder that everything is a “work in progress.” Tomorrow is another day. Another chance for change.
It’s a good way to welcome a new week. I’m ready to usher in a brand new month, full of possibilities.
The opening quote is by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-19420, author of the fictional series Anne of Green Gables; her complete body of work includes 20 novels, 500 poems, more than 500 short stories and numerous essays. Most of her novels are set on Prince Edward Island in Canada.
See http://www.cindycrosby.com for details.
March 8, 7 pm-8:30pm — Dragonflies and Damselflies: Frequent Fliers in the Garden at Twig and Bloom Garden Club, Glen Ellyn, IL.
March 9, 1-2:30 pm— Illinois Wild and Wonderful Early Bloomers at Garden Club of Oak Park and River Forest, Oak Park, IL.
March 28, 7-8:30pm—Add a Little Prairie to Your Garden at Grayslake Greenery Garden Club, Grayslake, IL.