Time and changing seasons


By James McGuire

Contributing columnist

Time flows ever onward.

For weeks now, spring has been busy donning its chlorophyll cloak. From the grass underfoot to the leafy tops of the tallest trees, everywhere you look there’s a sea of variegated green.

Spring’s green. Plural. Greens in such a multiplicity of hues that the majority of these unique vernal colors lack individual descriptive names.

Alas, a month from now their singular, exclusive take on that class of colors we call green will have been assimilated—toned up or down, subsumed, absorbed into the fold, and transformed accordingly.

Green still, of course, but having now become a green more like the green of their neighbors—the green of group conformity; just another blip in the overall green monotone we’ll view all summer.

Time always brings change.

Remember how things looked a month ago? The woods were thin, open. Fields were brown and emaciated; last year’s desiccated weedstems rattled when the chilly northwesterly winds blew through. It was sure enough spring, and that welcome season was visible everywhere…yet plenty of wintery hints still lingered around.

Now, however, May is two-thirds gone, and getting ready to give way to June. Afterwards, the countdown to summer will begin as the final weeks of spring unfold.

Yup, summer will officially arrive exactly one month hence!

What? You’ve been so busy enjoying our occasional temperature forays into the 70s, you forgot it’s still technically spring?

Well, don’t worry, the almost-summerish weather is here to stay—though as this past week reiterated, we can still have a backsliding night that reminds us what 40 degrees feels like. And about the time the orange day lilies come into bloom, we generally have a few cool days, accompanied by dark skies and rain, renewing the need to fire up the woodstove a few more times.

Still, weather whimsies aside, the checkpoints have been passed, the course set and you can trust that time will see us delivered to the next stop on our seasonal journey.

Moreover, these final weeks leading up to summer’s official debut are not merely spring’s last hurrah, but in my opinion—and from an outdoor perspective—some of the finest days we’ll see all year.

First off, it’s a perfect time for a relaxed camping trip. Not yet sweltering hot, but nights cool enough for a campfire followed by good sleeping inside a cozy tent. It’s also still too early for bugs to be much of a problem.

The woods and fields are gloriously fresh—green, and lush, with lots of wildflowers in breathtaking bloom. Wildflower enthusiasts can find plenty of blooms to hold their fancy—from Pasture Roses to Queen-of-the-Prairie, Ox-Eye Daisies, Hairy Puccoon, Butterfly Milkweed, Nodding Onion, Royal Catchfly, Wild Columbine, Ohio Spiderwort, Blue Dayflowers, and the pretty-but-poisonous Bitter Nightshade, to name just a few.

Anglers can enjoy some of the best action of the season during these pre-summer days. Bluegill can be found on the beds; largemouth bass prowl the shallows. Crappie are mostly done spawning, but hungry and once located, easy to catch using live minnows or jigs. Bullheads and catfish are wonderfully accommodating.

Wade-fishermen working the creeks will find excellent action on smallmouth, rock bass, and all manner of bright-hued sunfish. Better action than during spring’s first half, in my book. The only spoiling factor is weather-related water conditions; but if the stream’s in good shape, fishing will be great.

Days remain filled with birdsong. The warbler wave is over, but stragglers are still coming through. And there are plenty of other birds about.

A few fledglings are beginning to venture from the nest under the watchful eye of parents who’re busy feeding and protecting their rambunctious offspring. It’s a good time to see the young birds on the ground or sitting on a low limb—and you’ll often get an equally good look at the mindful parents nearby.

Speaking of birds, I hope you’ve filled your hummingbird feeders with sugar water. The feisty sprites are returning for their winter migration to warmer climes and will appreciate the free eats. You’ll be highly entertained watching them buzz about, hovering, sipping, and chasing one another as they wage fierce territorial disputes in a delightful squeaking blur.

Of course, nothing says you can’t simply fill these pre-summer days with such low-key activities as picnics at our local parks, slow walks along the many woodland trails, country drives, or evening cookouts

The goal is just to get outside. Remember how housebound you were in January?

I like to have lunch in the sunny side yard, with binoculars handy for casually watching the birds flitting through the nearby sycamores along the river. If it’s a late lunch, and the sun is agreeably warm, my lazy gene is apt to kick in and there’s a distinct possibility I’ll end up enjoying a short snooze on the comfy chaise lounge.

Outdoor fun doesn’t always entail doing something strenuous!

I suppose it’s my duty to remind that these days are the longest of the year. Unfair though it may seem, following the solstice on June 21, the earth will begin tilting back, and each day thereafter will grow incrementally shorter. Summer’s ever-decreasing day length thus begins at the moment of its inception.

Spring’s last hurrah is indeed special—not just because the season itself is drawing to a close, but because in so many ways it seems to have saved the best for last.

Reach the writer at [email protected]

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