The Month Without a Season

by | Feb 1, 2013 | Outdoors

It’s February, the month that doesn’t have a season. According to the calendar its winter, but seasons don’t punch a time clock. Not in Arkansas anyway. Sure, there are going to be some cold days during the shortest month. They won’t last long. That’s why I have a hard time calling February a winter month.
Can you smell it? I sure can, that sweet, heady, fertile smell of spring coming around the corner. It’s the smell of moist soil and warm southerly breezes. It makes me want to grab a cane pole, and an old coffee can full of worms. I’ll bet I can find a pasture pond where the water might be a touch warmer than the area lakes.

I can hear it too. Last night my daughter and I heard the first spring peepers of the season. For those of you that don’t know, spring peepers are little frogs. They will use any wet spot they can find to start the spring serenades and get underway with another years reproduction. I usually hear them on the first warm evenings in mid-February. You’ve heard them too. They make a high-pitched, monotonous cheeping. Usually several dozen are participating.
My daughter used to think the sound came from birds; specifically great blue herons which most of you may know make a prehistoric sounding “croak.” She had seen the herons at the pond during the day and thought they summoned more of their buddies to the pond for a nocturnal get together. I had to tease her about this when we heard the little singers last night.
It won’t be long until the other springtime vocalist come on the scene. I’ve already heard the cardinal, bright as a flame in the morning light, singing or “plowing” as some of the older folks call it. The whip-poor-wills will be starting in a couple of months. The turkeys will be hitting their peak gobbling at about the same time. Robins have been hanging around all winter but no singing from them yet. We usually don’t see the brown- headed cowbirds until April, so to hear their liquid call was a surprise the other day.
The visual promises are everywhere as well. Trout lilies reach from the forest floor, their blossoms unable to face the gray February sky. Hickory leaves are still a long way from popping out, but the buds look as though they could burst at any moment. There’s the faintest touch of green in the grass. The stalks of jonquils sprouting up in pastures and yards are telling you that it won’t be long now.
This first tease of warm days offer a scene of pasty legs and flip-flops dug out from the closet. Folks are pining for spring, craving the promise of warm afternoons. I think what we really crave is change though. I know I do.
I love summer, but along about August I’m ready for frosty mornings. Frigid nights are spent around the fire dreaming about wade fishing for smallmouth. A fire-warmed backside reminds me of the sun on my bare shoulders.
I recall a vacation on a beach in Mexico where I heard a woman exclaim that she was in paradise. “It’s eighty-five degrees and sunny every day! What more could you want?”
My mind wandered to those first cool mornings in September after a steamy summer. I thought about the first green flash of a hummingbird at the feeder in March. No ma’am, my favorite flavor of paradise revolves around change.
We need to come up with a name for this time of year, this precursor to spring. There’s “Indian Summer” for the nice days after that first cold snap in fall, “blackberry winter” for a cool spell in the late spring, and of course the “dog days” for those oppressive mid- summer heat waves. We need something to call this wonderful period when all the promise of springtime is waiting for us just up the path a bit further.
Or maybe it needs to stay like the month it’s wrapped in. A teasing puzzle without a label. A peek of what spring has in store for us before the cold north wind sends us back to the fireplace for a few more days.

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