March 1, 2013

A Subtle Sign of Spring

Yesterday, moving through my field on my way home from my snow shoe in the woods, I noticed that all the weeds and grasses were rising from holes in the snow.

It was as though someone was busy digging out special places to highlight each weed with a kind of deep spotlight. 

Groups of weeds look as though they are in elegant vases.

And a broken branch appears to be striding through deep snow. 

Even thin grasses are contained within a circle of snow. I have long seen widening circles of retreating snow around the bases of tree trunks in early spring: whatever warmth there is in the air is caught by the dark bark and it melts the snow around it. But I'd never seen this phenomenon with the smallest of weeds or grasses, or at least I'd never noticed it. We've had some days of above freezing temperatures and it must have been enough for even dried plants to collect enough warmth to melt snow.

As though to illustrate Henry David Thoreau's wonderful quote from his journals, today I saw that indeed the snow was also retreating from the trees in the woods:
Many an object is not seen, though it falls within the range of our visual ray, because it does not come within the range of our intellectual ray, i.e., we are not looking for it. So, in the largest sense, we find only the world we look for.
 I am looking for, and finding, subtle hints of a changing season.


  1. Isn't this exciting. It is almost as if you can feel the warmth given from around the base of the plants. Welcome spring.

    1. It is exciting. It's not yet warm enough for the maple sap to flow, but I hope that happens soon, after a few days coming up of cold gray weather.

  2. Dear Altoon,

    stumbled here looking for Z. Herbert's essays. Lovely blog!



  3. What a gift to us, your subtle eye and reflective soul.

    1. Thank you, Julie. I feel my own life is enriched when I pay attention.

  4. Yes, I will (am!), Altoon..but there's so much nice stuff here it's hard to know where to start! :-)

  5. Altoon, I'm an exhibit developer working on a small nature center for children. If possible, we'd like to use your image of snow sinking in around the base of the tree. We would provide your name as an image credit under the photo. Please feel free to email me at