May was a full month, beginning with a retreat at Lindenwood Retreat Center in Donaldson, IN, and moving on through yard and household projects in addition to the usual things. I took photos, but haven't had time or energy to post. So, over the next few days, we'll have a May retrospective.
Thanks to cooler weather, the blossoms of redbud and crabapple trees lasted longer than usual. Both were in view at our Great Lakes Mennonite Spiritual Directors retreat, which had the theme of Abundant Life in Liminal Spaces. The labyrinth was a recurring image of "liminal space". The group that walked the labyrinth for a spiritual practices session discovered that geese had been there before them, leaving "gifts" along the way. Initially frustrated by this, the group decided that actually this was a lot like life -- that often the thresholds of change and transition, the liminal spaces, have a lot of messiness about them. (How appropriate to be reminded the following Sunday, Pentecost, that one Celtic image for the Holy Spirit is wild geese.)
There were plenty of wild geese in the small lake, and a turtle sunning itself on our one beautiful sunny warm day, and an osprey soaring above its nest and perch in a nearby field.
The stores all think it is the season to be jolly and practice retail therapy. Outdoors the picture is more unexpected. These photos are all from Goshen in the past two weeks -- with frost on the leaves and crabapple blooms seen on the same day, a bright red Japanese maple leaf a few days later, snow on the crabapple tree this past Sunday, a yellow iris just a couple days before that. And in the last photo, these wild turkeys seem to have a good grasp on exactly what week this is, as they run for cover!
Our Seattle trip also included a visit to the Ballard Locks and the Woodland Park zoo, good weather and fun family times.
Snow still prevailed as March began, now interspersed with thaws that gave us glimpses of snowdrops. One melting snow mound in mid-March revealed a newspaper buried in January. The plastic bag kept it dry, and its headline was still quite appropriate. A record setting winter indeed.
In April, the woods and marsh by the dam still had plenty of brown, but also the calls of returning red-wing blackbirds, a sure sign of spring. It was a special delight to discover spring flowers and green new leaves pushing up through the mat of old leaves.
Dewdrops weren't the only thing I saw on my walk earlier this week. Ducks, monarch caterpillars, and dragonflies were out and about, enjoying the sunny morning as much as I was.
A couple of the ducks -- Mom and one duckling.
Near the Waverly Street bridge I found this milkweed plant, complete with a very hungry caterpillar.
And then the close-up view....
And on another nearby milkweed. . peek-a-boo!
And as I took photos of the caterpillar above from several angles, I discovered the dragonfly below, well camouflaged.
We took a walk along the race just before dusk the other evening. I checked the milkweed for any signs of monarch caterpillars and found this young chap, less that a half inch long. I've seen a couple monarch butterflies in recent days, which is more than I saw all last fall, and it's always fun to find a caterpillar.
A little further along we startled a heron, who slowly flapped his way down the canal ahead of us, finally coming to rest up on some dead branches -- unusual, since we generally see them in the water, near the bank.
He was still there shortly after when we came back past the snag, awkwardly climbing the vertical branch to get up to a higher level. He hopped and occasionally flapped for balance, and did his best to camouflage himself as a dead tree branch. (Can you see him in the 4th photo?)
The next morning I found another, larger monarch caterpillar on a milkweed growing in the middle of my raspberries, and three eggs on another leaf nearby. The last photo has one of the eggs and the two caterpillars together on our porch table, to show the size variation. The egg is off to the left and looks like a tiny yellow football balanced on end. We brought them all in to our screened-in porch so there will undoubtedly be more photos of monarchs in various stages.
Our spring may be a little later than usual this year, but it's following the same patterns. Our crabapple tree was covered with pink blossoms for about a week, while the delicate green miniature iris bloomed in the herb bed.
A robin built its nest in the yew beside the driveway, right at eye level, making it easy to keep an eye on the fledglings. A recent walk along the race gave glimpses of several families of mallards, with ducklings ready to turn on the turbo jets to keep up with mom. And the three or four mature rabbits who had been feasting in our yard at twilight seem to have vanished -- but at least two of their descendants have been enjoying the clover and the odd flower or two (but so far the fence has kept them out of the garden).
I was able to get down to the path along the millrace and through the woods by the dam during a brief period of sunshine yesterday. Glorious new green growth is opening everywhere -- interspersed with the greys and tans of last year's remnants. And the occasional bright red and yellow flash of a red-winged blackbird, and the echo of its konk-la-ree call. Springtime!
Finally we've made the transition to spring. it has warmed up enough that heading out for a walk is pleasant, rather than a major undertaking, and I've been gathering signs of spring.
Today I'm seeing ducks as they waddle their way through our neighborhood, checking out our backyard for nesting possibilities, and the neighbor's drive for other modes of transportation.
Notice the tracks in the snow on the bird bath. Just before the photo above, the cardinal hopped across the bird bath, stopping now and then with its head to one side, looking for all the world like he was thinking, "Wait, something is just not right here."
Snow and cold weather continues. Birds at the feeder are a bright spot in the day. The flocks of house sparrows are commonplace, but still I am glad to see them finding shelter in the green branches of snow-capped yew bushes below my window on a snowy day, while the sight of cheery cardinal red or the black cap of a perky chickadee gives my spirits a lift.The spiral of terra cotta birds on our back porch don't need the birdfeeder, but they seem to be enjoying the warmth of early morning sunlight nonetheless.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"