Sunday, July 15, 2012

Secrets Leaves Hide

          Years ago, if you had asked me my favorite season, I would have echoed responses given by folks around me—spring. Images of newness, rebirth, and returning life drew me like a magnet draws iron filings. 

Magazines’ subtle messages influenced me.  Pastel colors made me want bury my arms elbow-deep in winter-fallowed soil filled with writhing earthworms.  Budding leaf and flower photos delivered messages that made me want to dig out a fishing pole and a can of  worms to make a date with a crappie at a nearby fishing hole.

Even now I feel those urges, but I also find myself missing details I notice once plants lose  leaves, turning nature black and white.  Did color TV have the same effect on viewers?  Did we become so enthralled with colors and their effects that we missed subtleties we might have picked up watching an old black and white movie?

Don’t get me wrong, I love leafy trees and flowers anywhere I find them.  But I miss seeing hidden parts of nature during summer. 

What gets hidden by spring and summer growth?  Bird nests and squirrel nests for a start. After leaves fall, I discover how many critters raised families near me. Take a drive to check tops of leafless trees.  The woods are a bustling residential area.

An oriole’s bright orange catches my eye as it flashes by. Once leaves fall, I realize that little fellow wasn’t just a visitor.  It’s mate nested in a snug little sleeping bag of woven grasses in a tall cottonwood I drive under every day on my way to work.  Once spring leaves unfurl, that nest is hidden.

            We share our the creek with a  heron rookery.  Throughout fall and winter, seeing their empty nests reminds me temperatures will warm as days grow longer.

During leafless months, I count nests and smile to think how many more heron pairs have taken up residence in creek side trees.  Since the first week in March, I have watched them on the nest.  Silhouetted against the evening sky, one nestles into the bowl of the nest while the other stands watch with legs like black toothpicks against an orange sunset.

 Once leaves emerge, I only see herons as they fly to and from nests or as they spear their main course in nearby waterways.  So much green makes a mystery of their nesting and fledging young.

            It isn’t just leafed-out trees that hide nesting birds.  After leaves fell from my lilac bush last fall, I discovered why we’d seen a brown thrasher near our porch.  She’d been looking for insects to take to her nest in our lilac thicket.  We walked past her nest hundreds of times without noticing. 
            I enjoy the warmth and leaves spring and summer bring.  I enjoy promises of  new beginnings.  However, I have learned to relish discoveries I make when leaves drop and allow me to know more about a world that spring and summer hide.  

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