Spring: Half Behind, Half to Come

The first leaves of spring pass sunlight through a delicate filter

It promises not to be a very creative day in terms of words or pixels, with two meetings scheduled in town, inconveniently early then late in the day, with the hot part of the afternoon left over to mow grass, clean up in the garden and check off a half-dozen things on the honey-do list before the weekend.

I did manage to stop a moment on the way in from tending the (two remaining) chickens this morning as the sun sent shafts of soft lavender light diverging through the sparse branches of the hemlocks dying in earnest now along the east ridge.

The only benefit from the tree species’ loss, the indigo bunting and the scarlet tanager males who called from two spent hemlocks near the barn, both from the uppermost dead branches, which until they rot and fall, will make excellent platforms from which to proclaim territory–the bunting in his doublets, and the tanager in his robin-quality warble so distinctive that at first hearing in May (this year in late April), it marks for me the true coming of spring.

Image: first (and last) in an intended set–glamour shots of first-emergent leaves in the early spring. It just happens too quickly, so this one tulip poplar will wait until next year for company.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Rhoda (the red one) came down quickly with a respiratory illness and could not breathe or eat. I put her down.

    Blanche (the white one) came down with a bad case of dog bite. The dog (on the leash and coming across the plank) saw the bird hunkered in the tall grass along the creek and lunged. The 85# dog won out against the 100# wife and had “played with” the chicken sufficiently that by the time Ann reached the dog, the stress had killed the bird.

    My favorite, Dionne, and her previous rival and tormentor, Caroline, live on.

  2. Yup, the photo is very unique among nature photographs that I have seen. The floating tiny leaflets really are amazing. It looks like a very difficult shot to set up. Don’t forget to do more next year!