What is Spring?

What is that? A Patch of green!

This spring the upper Midwest languished in browns, blacks, and slate landscapes underneath piles of grimy snow with grey skies blanketing overhead. Meanwhile, the South was vibrant in green expanses of fields and brilliant bursts of blooms of every hue. Pinks. Yellows. Fuchsias. Lavenders. Blues. Chartreuses. And, the sun!

All were simply amazing and so welcome to winter-weary eyes and bodies.

Here are a few reflections from our recent journey into the emerging spring.

  • Farm fields were dotted with John Deeres tiling up the soil. Such a part of Iowa’s economy.
  • Emerald green lawns almost blinded us the first few times we spotted them.
  • Mississippi has one of the most beautiful welcome centers I have ever seen. A southern feel, magnolias in bloom, kindly attendants, refreshments for visitors.
  • Tucked in the emerging forest greens were dogwoods and wisteria. I remember Mrs. (Lady Bird) Johnson’s lilting Texas description of wisteria – one of her favorites – when I interviewed her many years ago about the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
  • Down along waterways, in between piney forests and rolling hills, were miles and miles of raised roads above flood waters sloughing off the upper Midwest’s frozen landscape inundating the south with a toxic mess.
  • Foods are fantastic! Skip the chains and take in the local flavors. Real gumbo, etouffee, plates of mudbugs, beans and rice, baking powder biscuits and Southern cornbread. Sweet tea is popular with some. And, for me, Chicory coffee, again!  Yeah!!!
  • Hobbling around in a boot was made easier as kindly folks opened doors, hauled around my materials and took my arm walking.
  • Veriditas Council encountered movie makers at the Solomon Episcopal Conference Center. Fun characters in costume. Diligent technicians constructing sets. Safety crews on call – just in case. Lights. Tractor-trailers….An experience. And rain, naturally.
  • Our motel and café stops in tiny towns. OK accommodations and friendly folks.  Then, the casino stop along the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, MS. Efficient, non-engaging.  But the view of the flooding river was great.  Barges laboring upstream and almost flying downstream in the rising waters. Navigating the shoals and bridges. What skill.
  • Following the Mississippi Mound Trail and stopping at some of the noted mound sites. Last year the archeologist at Effigy Mounds estimated that most mounds built by indigenous people across the country had been destroyed. So, seeing the signs marking existing mounds in the South was rewarding.
  • Did you know that Kermit the Frog was “hatched” in Leland Mississippi? We detoured to see the remains of Windsor Ruins – an elaborate plantation home with only pillars standing. The story is that a careless guest dropped cigar ashes in a construction site in the home. Well, that guest is not popular! Moral of the story is to keep guests and hot coals away from flammable materials. A group of Michigan high schoolers on a mission trip stopped by with us and took in the ruins and a group photo. Then, we turned back to the main road because the smaller road near The River was under water.
  • Vicksburg, Mississippi, was a turning point of the Civil War. We drove the loop past monuments to regiments and men on both sides of the conflict. Upon entering the visitor center, I felt the anguish from a siege of more than 150 years ago.  It was overwhelming.  So, right in the middle of the visitor center, I paused, spread out my hands and held space, inviting the lost souls to release and find their way to a safe place beyond this world. This experience has happened before – encountering lost souls and inviting them to pass through the veil completely. While I do not know if they chose to go, I do know that after a time, peacefulness began to flow in. “When will we ever learn?” We do have options besides anger and anguish. “In the end, only kindness matters.” (Jewel)
  • The sunrises and sunsets were delightful. The air was balmy. So, we retreated back north into winter. Now, we are in spring green, too, and our plants popping up.  Vultures nesting next door. Songbirds calling. It’s coming. Spring.

Amazing Ice!

Ice is a miraculous substance.  Actually, it is water that is so amazing. Ice is just one of its three phases.

Water is essential for life and one of its unusual characteristics is how it behaves when its temperature drops. Like most substances water contracts as it gets colder, but unlike other substances, it reaches maximum density at 39 degrees Fahrenheit and then expands as it gets colder. Finally, when it freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit it expands.

That’s huge! If Ice were denser than water, it would sink to the bottom of a lake or pond. The surface would continue to freeze and sink until by mid-winter the lake would be all ice. Few creatures could live there.

Instead, when water freezes it expands and gets lighter. It floats on the colder water beneath and insulates the water, so it doesn’t freeze all the way to the bottom. Ice is merely a veneer floating on water, enabling life in the liquid below it.

It might be 20 below zero in the air above the ice but down in the water a fish basks in the relative warmth of water in the 30s.

When lake ice gradually cools as fall’s temperature drops a beautiful result happens in some years. On one cold, clear, calm night the lake will form a layer of crystal clear ice several inches thick. It’s hard and usually safe to walk on.

The walk reveals amazing patterns of cracks and fractures. Clear ice gives a lake walker the sensation of striding on air with a clear view to the bottom beneath the feet. For an idea of the beauty of ice, enjoy these photos taken at Cedar Lake, Denville, New Jersey, in January 2018.