Marking Time

24B92C05-3845-4D72-BA12-4E30BF257C5DIn this time of COVID-19, many are learning to slow down, take more notice of things around them and appreciate what they have. Even for me, someone who has been retired for several years and has all the time in the world, there seems to be a slower pace.

This Spring I’ve been doing what I do every spring: checking out the emergence of the plants and animals that tell us winter is over and summer is on its way. This is known as phenology, “the rhythmic biological nature of events as they relate to climate” to quote my friend John Latimer. John does a weekly phenology report on Northern Community Radio ( wherein he discusses his observations. He also does a “daily dose of phenology” in which he looks back at his records to see what was happening on a given date. It’s sounds geeky (and it is) but its a great way to relate to the land around us and remember we are a part of something bigger.

I have been trying to keep phenology records for the past few years but often am too rushed to remember what I saw and write it down. But this year, I find myself taking the time everyday, not just some days, to notice what is happening in the natural world. I’ve challenged myself to find something new everyday or at least write down something I saw or heard, that got my attention. I made some early observations in March but I didn’t start writing things down everyday until a few weeks ago. Here is my daily log for the Spring so far, including observations while at work, but mostly at home:


27: hepatica beginning to bloom

28: rue anemone, marsh marigold beginning to bloom; first-of-the-year (FOY) white-throated sparrow

29: aspen catkins dropping

30: sandhill cranes calling from the cattail slough (see home page photo)


1: snowberry, chokecherry leafing out

2: leatherwood leafing out

3: bellwort emerging; wood anemone flowering

4: FOY phoebe

5: Pennsylvania sedge flowering

6: wild ginger flowering

7: aspens leafing out

8: red maples leafing out; cattails emerging

9: FOY warblers: “butter butt” (yellow-rumped), palm, pine (observed at Big Sand Lake access)

10: green ash flowering

11: large-leaved aster emerging

12: FOY spring azure and fritillary butterflies, black and white warbler (Greenwater Lake Scientific and Natural Area)

13: oak trees flowering

14: FOY yellow warbler

15: FOY Baltimore oriole

16: trilliums have emerged, ready to bloom

17: wild plum blooming; FOY sharp-shinned hawk (Big Sand Lake access)

The natural world keeps on keeping on, regardless of what is happening in the “human” world. We get busy creating our own reality with work, politics, sports, celebrity gossip, etc. We seem to be in a competition to see who can accumulate the most, which really means using up and throwing away the most.

COVID-19 is a reminder that the natural world is the “real” reality and still is in charge. We may think we control our destiny, that the world exists for us to exploit. Along comes a bit of protein-coated RNA, (see my post “Virus”) one of millions of viruses that exist in nature, and our world is turned upside down.

We are not in control. Nature is, always has been, always will be.