Two Bur Oaks and a Crawdad

A group of swamp white oaks Healthy soil is important, but for whom?  In the Garden  The young bur oak would not be kept down. Yet again it revealed itself among the standing dead stalks of a large patch of purple bee balm, a good three feet tall and leafing out. In spring, a bur oak’s leaves look like sharp-edged, glossy cutouts. They are not green, but shade delicately among soft corals, tans and pinks. The green comes a bit later, like a slow-motion wave gently pervading each leathery leaf. The question, as it had been for several years, was what to do with this young newcomer to the garden.  About ten feet away and across the walk from house to garage stands a second bur oak that I’d started from an acorn some twelve years ago. I’ve enjoyed watching it grow its first sets of true leaves, become large enough to attract birds and then mature enough to bear acorns. This winter I limbed it up three feet from the ground, mainly to give the sedges and wild geraniums growing underneath a

In Praise of Miserable Weather

Any person who has lived in the Chicago region for any length of time knows miserable weather. The temperature hovers at around 32 degrees, a damp wind angles right in your face the mix of snow/sleet/rain/ice pellets descending from the flat, dull-aluminum-colored sky, and slushy snow slumps on the ground. Our winters are famous for this. Residents moan and complain. People migrate south to escape. Not for us the pristine whiteness, the invigorating crispness of the northern or mountain winter.

I've missed this weather.

Last winter and the early part of this one I've waited and worried, sulked, even; but now, at last, we've got it--all of the above plus the added bonus of occurring when the snowdrops are blooming and it should, as meteorologists inform us, be heading towards the 40s.

It's the kind of weather I imagine they were having in Japan, the old Japan of wooden and paper houses and no central heat when a traveler, I think American, in a story I once heard, complained of the cold. He was wishing for sturdy walls and a roaring fire and wondering why on occasion they opened the doors to view the snow--and an old woman replied, "it's winter. You're supposed to be cold." She was perhaps wondering why this person was so ignorant as to not understand that one is supposed to endure the cold, yet appreciate the aesthetics of miserable weather.

So I go out for snow walks. Yesterday I found myself by the pond at Thatcher woods in a landscape of black, white and gray. I stood in the quiet, looking around as a fresh breeze bearing ghostly precipitation came off the not-quite-frozen water, slushy with rotten snow. I heard a woodpecker, then saw it fly to a snaggy oak, where it commenced its bobbing vertical walk.

Basho, the great Japanese poet, wrote many haiku about winter. Here is one (translated by Robert Hass):

Winter solitude--
in a world of one color,
the sound of wind


***

Related Posts:
Meteorological Winter
Gardeners' Work

Comments

margaretart said…
Wonderful musing on the weather in our world---such apt illustration and haiku.
Anonymous said…
Although southern Pennsylvania has had a colder than normal but almost snowless winter, Maine has been having a good old-fashioned winter and it makes me feel relieved. -Jean
Hi Margaretart, thanks for stopping by. I know you appreciate Japanese art.


Hi Jean, Yes, it's odd the relief one feels. I sure am looking forward to gardening season, though.
Irene Flebbe said…
Lovely musings on Chicago area winters. You have reminded me to always be mindful, and enjoy the simplified beauty, the silence, and . . . the slush.
Thanks, Irene. Waterproof boots do help! I hope to stay in this positive frame of mind as I journey home through today's snowstorm.
Apis said…
I take snow walks everyday at 6 a.m and have done so for the last 4 months. I work on a ski hill where we have 15 feet of snow. I would like to take a sand walk on a tropical beach and embrace the warmth.