Cosmos May 7

I can’t remember noticing, before, how the light changes as spring progresses.

Cosmos May 7

The yard’s surfaces absorb and reflect, soften and sharpen the sun’s new angle.

Iris May

Bees appear to fly through light, not air.

Bee April 29

Bee April 29

And birds strike silhouette poses, as if eager to be photographed.

Warbler April 29

Robin May 6

Is it all in my head, a side effect of spring euphoria? Or is it happening where you live, too?

Warbler May 3

If you live in the southern hemisphere, is it happening in reverse? Light reverting back to air, flattening against fall’s advance as bees and birds prepare for winter?

Spring is in the Air (and in the Ground)

Fly April 10

When the pear tree’s pollinators finally arrived, they arrived in encouraging numbers. Hoverflies were the first wave, pretending to be bees.

Fly April 10

Fly April 10

A wave of true bees followed.

Bee April 10

Bee April 10

Happily, a few Question Mark butterflies drifted in near the end.

Question Mark April 10

Question Mark April 10

While the pear blooms lasted, the yard’s winter flock of yellow-rumped warblers divided their time between sipping nectar, foraging for insects, and sampling the last block of winter suet.

Warbler April 11

Warbler April 11

(As an aside, I spotted the following warbler yesterday and was confused by its complete lack of yellow feathers. I believe it is a yellow-rumped warbler, but I’ve never seen one that didn’t have at least a blush of yellow under its wings. Please comment if you can correct or confirm my identification!)

Warbler April 22

As the pear tree dropped its petals, we readied the yard for summer. We replaced damaged boards on the aging deck, uncovered the ginger lilies, and swept leaves out of the cactus bed. (The carpenter bees ignored us and concentrated on chasing each other. They also chased warblers, chickadees, crane flies, hoverflies, beetles, bees, leaves, dandelion fluff, and pear petals.)

Bee April 22

The garden stores aren’t fully stocked yet, but we found most of the plants on our list: dill, fennel, milkweed, columbine, annual lantana, snapdragons, salvia, and cosmos.

Flowers April 22

Yesterday, this American Painted Lady butterfly made me wish we had planted more cosmos. (The yard’s 2015 butterfly sightings, so far, are a major improvement over last year’s butterfly drought, but they don’t begin to equal 2012’s impressive migration.)

Butterfly April 22

The yard’s birds have been getting ready for summer, too. This little house wren doesn’t have a mate yet, but he clearly has a favorite house.

House Wren April 21

House Wren April 21

A pair of robins finished their nest last week and now spend most of their hours foraging.

Robin April 22

Robin April 22

(I am amazed by how many worms they find and eat each day.)

Robin April 22

The robins aren’t the only efficient foragers in our area. A pair of osprey make regular passes over the yard, carrying fish. Yesterday I caught a few frames as one of the pair nearly dropped its lunch on the deck.

Osprey April 22

After a brief struggle, which lasted no more than two wingbeats, the osprey managed to subdue its lunch and flew on. What would happen if the fish managed to break free? Would the osprey land on my deck and reclaim its catch? (I’d probably drop my camera and break it, leaving me with no proof of why I dropped it…)

Over the years I’ve found many surprising things in the yard, but never a fish. Perhaps this summer?

Osprey April 22

Except, it’s not summer yet. Today the windows are closed against a surge of chill that moved in overnight and is forecasted to last through the next few days. Mother would have called it dogwood winter, expecting the dogwoods to bloom after the chill passed. Or blackberry winter, if the blackberries were due to bloom. I’m content to call it the end of winter.

Hawk April 18

Photos of Spring and a Publication Note

Flowers April 6

The daffodils, all three of them, bloomed this week. As did the pear tree.

Grackle April 6

While it has plenty of bird visitors, the pear tree hasn’t seen its usual complement of pollinators.

Robin April 6

The pear blooms usually draw bees and beetles by the hundreds, but many of the pollinators seem to be sleeping in this year. Yellow-rumped warblers are getting most of the nectar.

Warbler April 6

The pear tree’s pollinators may be sleeping in, but the carpenter bees are awake and active. Territorial males have claimed pockets of airspace near the house, fence, and deck. Their physiology must be wondrously efficient, because they patrol and defend their claims with seemingly endless vigor, never pausing to eat. They aren’t interested in nectar. They’re waiting for females to arrive.

Carpenter Bees April 6

My favorite news from the yard this week comes from the milkweed. It survived our long, cold winter, which means we might have more monarchs this year!

Milkweed April 6

My favorite other news involves a publication note. My short story “Numbers” is now posted at The Blue Hour Magazine. This is my first fiction publication!

“Numbers” is the first short story I ever attempted. For nearly ten years I returned to it periodically, each time applying what I had learned since its last revision. Finally, in 2013, the story seemed to defy further revision. By then the opening had been entirely restructured and the word count cut by more than half. That year “Numbers” won Honorable Mention in the Frank Lawlor Memorial Fiction Prize at the Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference.

I let “Numbers” drift to the bottom of my to-do pile after its award, but in January of this year I decided to give the story one final edit and begin submitting it for publication. Then I selected a new practice manuscript from the archive, because I am not through learning. My journey with “Numbers” has reached a happy and satisfying conclusion, but my journey with writing will never end.

Between Seasons

I had hoped spring would chase winter’s gloom into memory, but it hasn’t yet. Instead there are all these photos of hunger and snow, dating back to October.

Warbler Oct 28

Warbler Jan 15

Cedar Waxwing Jan 15

Tufted Titmouse Jan 29

Squirrel Jan 16

Squirrel Jan 16

Squirrel Jan 29

Dove and Finch Jan 29

Snow Jan 29

Snow Jan 29

Woodpecker Jan 29

House Finch Jan 29

Along with hunger and snow, this winter brought weeks of numbing cold.

Doves Jan 29

Cardinal Jan 29

Squirrel Jan 16

I was glad I had left the bird houses hanging because I saw chickadees retreating into them at nightfall.

Chickadee Dec 30

It’s not that winter was completely cheerless. The yard had a few winter blooms, and there were certainly days of sunshine.

Honeysuckle Jan 1

Paperwhites Jan 2

Warbler Oct 29

But I’m ready for spring. Real spring, with hours on end of warmth and nest building and bird song.

Squirrel Jan 15

I can’t be the only one who is fretful and impatient. Maybe that’s why it seems as if spring is embarrassed to be arriving so late. Instead of rushing in with thunder and rain-scented gusts, spring is edging into the yard like a guilty ticket holder who overslept and missed the opening scene. Bees are sluggish, the irises and pear tree bloomed while I wasn’t looking, and the house stays chilly despite bright sunshine and open windows.

Bee March

Irises April 5

Pear Tree April 5

I suppose I’ll be complaining about the heat, before too long, and wishing for a cool draft in the house. Because summer always follows, and fall after it. And then there will come a day, sometime in early September, when I will wish for winter. But for now all of my wishes are focused on spring.

Carpenter Bees

Bee April 12

Our house and yard are under siege, completely surrounded by carpenter bees.

Bee April 12

These large bees buzz around our eaves and patrol along the fence, staging vicious mid-air duels whenever a challenger enters their territory. Sometimes they crash against each other so heavily that both bees fall to the ground. Then, whichever bee recovers first hovers over the unfortunate loser and bashes it back to the ground every time it tries to take flight. These skirmishes last until the defeated bee manages to escape the disputed territory, or until the victor is distracted by another adversary.

Bee April 12

Yesterday afternoon, I spent nearly an hour trying to take photos as one of the bees worked itself to exhaustion chasing the pear tree’s falling petals.

Bee Motion April 12

I failed miserably, ending up with frame after frame of motion-blurred bee.

Bee Motion April 12

But some of the motion blur was due to laughter. I’ve been feeling sharp stabs of pity, all week, as I watched our swarm of bees harass butterflies and crane flies, even a few hungry warblers. So I couldn’t help but laugh as this little fighter panted along, zipping back and forth in a frenzy of fury, trying to subdue a shower of sparkling petals.

Bee Motion April 12