Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter Solstice?

By Beth Sullivan
Some of us have SAD…Seasonal Affective Disorder…a major craving for light and sun that is sorely lacking at this time of year. We are heading to the Solstice which marks the shortest, darkest days of the entire year. Generally things are pretty gray and brown outside as well. Some folks are lucky to head south, to the lands of warm sunshine, to replenish the spirit and try to banish the darkness. The rest of us don our winter clothes and head out to the open spaces and try to find a protected spot to raise our faces to the sunlight.
This is what December can be like

This year I think, we are also experiencing Seasonal Confusion Disorder. It helps just a bit: if there is not a lot of sun, at least it is warm! I feel just a little guilty enjoying this side effect of Global Warming. No doubt 50 and 60 degree days help make getting outside a lot easier. We had tried to put aside rakes and shovels, loppers and pruners, but they are still in use as we find ways to get into our gardens or walk the trails. There are walls to be cleared, paths to be maintained, invasive vines to be clipped. There are even opportunities to mow.

Seasonal confusion 

It has been interesting to see in what ways Nature is expressing her confusion with the unseasonable warmth. This December I met up with a Garter snake at Knox Preserve, sunning on the lower trail. It should be hibernating in a rocky den. In my little backyard pond, a small Bullfrog continues to come out and sit on the rocks. I heard a Spring Peeper in the woods on December 17. I guess since there are still insects flying around, they can find some food, but surely frogs should be securely tucked into an underwater protected space, conserving energy to get through the winter. I worry for their survival.
Garter snakes should be denned up, not sunning themselfs

On a recent rainy morning, I counted 5 earthworms in wet puddles in the driveway. Not long after I noticed a Robin hopping in the same area, presumably devouring an unexpected delicacy.
A Robin in winter is lucky to get a few earth worms.

Unusually early blooming

On trees and shrubs, buds have begun to swell and in some cases, even break into flower. While it happens frequently to Rhododendron and Forsythia, I was surprised to see a beautiful Hellebore at the edge of my woods, and a Jack in the Pulpit in bloom in December!! I don’t believe these plants will have the energy to bloom again in the spring. I suppose it was equally surprising to find a honey bee on the Hellebore!
Hellebore and Honeybee in mid-December.

Jack in the Pulpet bloomed fully in December.

I do look forward to a little snow, to brighten the landscape and give a protective cover to the plants that can be damaged by severe freeze and thaw cycles. For now I will enjoy the warmth and rely on looking at photos of past winters to remind me to be careful what I wish for!
We will still enjoy a winter trail.

Happy Solstice to all.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan.

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