You call this spring?

First the whine, then some news. It’s April, and the calendar says we’re finishing our second week of spring. Huh. The first week brought two blizzards, each dumping a thick blanket of white on our peak-and-valley landscape (moisture we needed, I admit). In between we had some lovely warm days that tricked the plants like the charming blue-violet strain of dwarf iris below (I think this is Iris reticulata ‘harmony,’ but I didn’t label it, so I’m not sure) into thinking spring had come. But no.


After the snow melted, the second week of this season I hate to call spring brought what weather forecasters like to call “active weather.” Which in this part of the world, with radical elevation changes over very short distances between the peaks (topping out over 14,000 feet elevation) and the valley bottom, where we live at just over 7,000 feet, means wind. Lots of it. For a couple of days, the air poured down the valley in great waves accompanied by whooshing, whistling, rattling, clashing and banging. And then silence for a minute or two before the noise of the next wave became audible, swelled, got louder, and rushed past. 

At least the really windy days felt like spring, with highs in the upper 50s and 60s and nightly lows in the forties–our first above-freezing nights of the year. Then yesterday, a cold front moved in and the air movement settled down to merely “breezy,” which would be an improvement except that the temperatures dropped into the teens last night and barely crept up above freezing today, despite the sun. Brrrr! This is not the gardening weather I had in mind. My weekend plans included digging and separating the crowded plants in my strawberry bed, thinning the greens under the row cover, and so on. But if it doesn’t warm up, I’m going to garden inside.

Which is what I’m whining about. I want to be outside. Getting outside, whether in the kitchen garden with my hands in the soil or picking up wind-blown trash from our beautifully reclaimed block of urban creek or prowling our native mountain grassland yard in search of signs of green, lifts my mood and restores my spirits. Being outside just feels good, and I can use all the feel-good I can get. It’s not that Richard’s not doing well–he is. But keeping my balance and my equanimity while being faced with the reality of his brain cancer every single day takes a lot of emotional and spiritual energy.

(The wildflower in the photo above is one of our reliable early-spring bloomers, Corydalis aurea or golden-smoke. It’s a tiny relative of bleeding heart which pops up where it will in our yard, the seed dispersed by seed-eating ants. An ant picks up a golden-smoke seed by its yummy-tasting handle-like ridges, and wanders off, chewing on the ridges until it gets to the hard, inedible seed coat and promptly drops the seed–some distance from the parent plant. Plants are rooted in place and have to be pretty clever to disperse their progeny far and wide.)

Okay, that’s enough whining. Thanks for bearing with me.

Now, some news: It’s National Poetry Month, and author and blogger Janet Riehl of the village wisdom magazine Riehlife, a virtual conversation featuring a fascinating mix of diverse voices, is posting a poem (or several a day) along with commentary from that day’s poet. Today’s offering is former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins, Monday, April 5 is–ta dah!–me. No, I don’t think of myself as poet. But I have this haiku practice going where I put up a haiku every day on Twitter (search susanjtweit) and Facebook. Why? As I said in my comment for Riehlife:

For me, haiku is a way to use the virtual world of social networking to broadcast awareness of the very real world where we live: nature, place, season, and the fleeting beauty of the moment. When I post a haiku on Twitter, it is like sending out an electronic locator beacon broadcasting a signal from a specific place, a specific time, a specific detail of nature and my awareness of it. In a sense, I am using the virtual world of Twitter to foster awareness of the real world, the living Earth that is our home, our refuge and renewal.

Check out my haiku on Riehlife, or watch for my daily haiku tweet or FB postings. And start your own practice. Writing a haiku is a wonderful way to hone your awareness, witness the world, and honor the place where you are–right now. If you’ve got haiku or other poetry to share, submit a sample to Janet (janet.riehl at for Riehlife.

Also, I’ve got some author interviews in the works. Over the next month or so you’ll be hearing from biologist and author Lyanda Haupt, on her urban bird memoir/natural history tale Crow Planet, artist, geologist and garden blogger extraordinaire Susan Leigh Tomlinson, on her new book, How to Keep a Naturalist’s Notebook (which could be subtitled, “how to know and observe nature, anywhere”), and one of my all-time favorite writers, Kathleen Dean Moore on her new book, Wild Comfort. (I’m reviewing all three for Story Circle Book Reviews, in my glorious new capacity as nature/environment editor–unpaid, but what a great title! The full interviews will run on the book review site, excerpts here.) Stay tuned….

Oh, and that funny crinkly leaf above? It’s rhubarb, not entirely sure whether it’s spring and time to unfurl and leave the protection of the soil or not. I know just how it feels.