Winter is melting into spring! As I stand on the deck of our house I hear the distinct sound of wind soughing through the pines yet the branches are perfectly still. Then, I realize, it is the sound of running water. My dog Loki and I go exploring. The snow in the upper meadows melts into a large pool before gushing through the culvert and then rushes down a narrow draw.
I imagine the newly formed creek as a raging river running down a great canyon; scoria rock outcroppings become mountains covered in hues of orange, green and gray lichen, like a coral reef above ground. As the snowmelt cascades over a cut in the ground it reveals several vertebrae, remnants of winterkill long past, that shimmer and sway like a prehistoric fish peering out from behind the waterfall. The river winds in a legato curve around a pine tree; bubbles glub-glub to the surface, sounding bass notes in a symphony of water music as glorious as Handel’s composition.
I jump the creek and roam near its bank where, scattered under a pine tree, I find owl pellets, tiny white bones and gray fur in a tidy regurgitated ball. For a month I have listened from my deck to the great horned owls’ hoot that questions the setting sun and challenges the moon to rise; perhaps this is a nesting tree, a nursery for the fledglings that will soon be looking for voles in the fields.
Loki follows his nose, a fresh scent to a ponderosa pine and stares up into the branches. I finally see the porcupine, trying to be one with his dinner, trying to look invisible as he hangs tightly to a top branch. I greet my prickly friend with a neighborly ‘hello’ and then ask him to please curb his appetite just a little as he nibbles his way through this stand of forest on the eastern Montana plains.
As Loki and I slog our way back home through the sodden meadow I spot a flash of blue. Oh, joy! Bluebirds! The deal is sealed. Spring is here to stay. Next, the search for the first crocus!