Sunshine, wind, rain, snow, thunder, and lightning – we’ve experienced it all in the last two weeks. April rolled in windy and wet and transformed the landscape from browns and yellows to vivid greens.
“The uncertain beauty of an April day,
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away.“
The Two Gentlemen of Verona, I.iii.85-87
The world seems to have transformed since the end of March and everywhere there are signs of quickening life. Leaves are rapidly forming on trees, perennials are racing up from the ground after their long winter slumber, the first dandelions of the year are nodding their yellow heads in cheerful hello, and forsythia are bursting into bloom.
Over the last couple of weeks, we raised five painted lady butterflies. We received a jar of five tiny caterpillars in the mail and watched them grow into five big, fat caterpillars. Then they climbed to the roof of their jar and formed chrysalises around themselves. About a week later, they emerged as butterflies! It was fascinating and such a great project for springtime.
We read a book from the Let’s Read and Find Out Series a couple of times as we watched the process enfold. It’s From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman.
Our chicks have continued their own transformation as well. They no longer look like the little balls of fluff we brought home from the farm store, but look more like miniature chickens these days. They are still living in our garage as they aren’t yet ready to handle the cold spring nights here, but we take them out to play outside sometimes in the afternoon.
My daughter (7) thought putting the chicks in the dump truck was about the funniest thing ever.
The weather has often been too stormy and wet to do much outdoor work, but in the windows of good weather my husband has been hard at work building the kids a treehouse. They are delighted. I think it’ll be a lot of fun for them. You can see a few stages of the process below.
On a cold and windy afternoon, I watched two hawks flying together. One hawk streaked ahead, the other followed close on its tail. They dove and rose together in perfect synchronicity before disappearing from my sight over the crest of a hill. It was one of those moments in nature during which I can forget everything else and become totally lost in the present moment.
I couldn’t help thinking of Helen MacDonald’s excellent book H is for Hawk. Overwhelmed with tremendous grief over the death of her father, MacDonald turns to the wild to find solace. Part of this turning to the wild involves her dedicating herself, seemingly entirely, to a wild creature – a young goshawk named Mabel, whom she raises and trains. It’s a powerful and captivating book and it forever changed the way I think about hawks.
There is a way in which an experience in nature can somehow lay bare a truth of the world, and MacDonald captures this experience so well in her writing.
“It struck me then that perhaps the bareness and wrongness of the world was an illusion; that things might still be real, and right, and beautiful, even if I could not see them – that if I stood in the right place, and was lucky, this might somehow be revealed to me.”
― Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk
I keep coming back to the memory of those two hawks as a kind of sigil of what is right and beautiful in the world when feelings of despair start to slink in.
This week we took a ‘spring break’ from our homeschool. This spring break is an at-home affair, but I simply felt we could all use a week to refresh and just enjoy ourselves at home a bit. I had grand plans for the things I would get done with the the extra time I imagined I would have this week not guiding the homeschool routine, but I have discovered (not for the first time) that somehow I am just as busy on the ‘days off’.
There is always so much to do around the house and yard, that I just find myself going from task to task while also helping the kids with the various projects and games they get up to. With children, seedlings, baby chicks, adult hens, a parrot, a garden, and butterflies(!) to care for, the day just fills itself up. It often doesn’t feel like any forward ‘progress’ is made in the way that I sometimes hope it will, but I think it is success under a different kind of metric.
“Invest in the millenium, Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.”Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front by Wendell Berry
On Monday, there were thunderstorms throughout the day, so we read Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco and then baked a thunder cake of our own. It’s a tradition that we do a few times a year and something I did with my mom when I was a kid, so it feels very special to me. Plus, it’s cake.
My youngest son has been taking a nature journaling class online for the last few months, and he has become a very committed nature journaler. Each week the class covers a different seasonal topic. I came across this little tableau he had set up for himself before this week’s class on robins. Robins have just recently returned to our location, so it was a great time for him to observe them.
That’s all for now. I have kombucha to bottle, seedlings to water, children to play with, and dinner to make. Until next time, wishing you a happy spring.