On a raw afternoon I watched a mallard duck splash down into Cheshire Lake and another walk along the edge of the last skin of ice. Standing under a young white pine tree I could look out along a shining line where the wind, kicking up waves along the water’s surface, had splintered the ice into fragments.
On a Sunday in Springside Park, in a spring afternoon that had wandered north out of June, I heard frogs singing.
Do you ever keep a record of things like this — send a photograph of the first winter aconite in bloom and the Lenten rose, like my dad coming in from an afternoon in the back yard muddy and excited because the bloodroot have come back?
In my family we all do, and we have company. The Berkshire Co-op and Berkshire South Regional Community Center taught me a word for it awhile ago, when they led a series of hikes on the study of seasonal changes in nature. They called them phenology hikes.
I looked it up, and phenology is the study of cycles in plant and animal life. It often means the first appearance each year, the first sighting of pussy willow buds or redwing blackbirds, the first sound of peepers.
I like this — the science of keeping an eye out for things. If I kept it up for a year, I might know whether the ice on Cheshire Lake is melting early or late and when the maple season ends, and how long the vernal pools last in the woods, and when the tadpoles hatch. In past springs we’ve had bloodroot blooming in our woods by now. Maybe I’ll go look for some.