Those Woodpecker Winters

”Wake up! Wake up!” The woodpecker knocks, flying from tree trunk to tree trunk, swooping gracefully between the branches. “Spring is here. Wake up!“

Against the pale white bark of the poplar trees, her red crest hat can be seen by all the creatures of the forest, like a flame alight in dark meadow.

“Wake up, poplar!” She knocks. “Wake up, spruce!”

“Let us sleep. It is only April. The winter is still not over.” Poplar replies with a shiver of her branches.

“Even the ants are still hiding in their burrows. ” Creaks spruce. “Let us be if only for a few more weeks. Wake us when the hares winter white coats have fallen, or when the wasps stir from their nests. Not now. It is still too soon.”

“Oh, but poplar, if you do not wake now and show the fresh green your leaves to the winter she will not know her time is passed. And spruce, if your boughs do not bud fresh and bright winter will wonder why you wait.” Woodpecker knocks, flying from tree to tree tapping her bill against the cool wooden trunks. “So, wake up! Wake up, I say!”

Spruce shivers her needles in the spring breeze.

Poplar shakes her bare branches against the whisps of low clouds.

”Let us sleep!” The trees all say together.

And so woodpecker flies along her way, red hat and all, chased by a stray snowflake fluttering down towards the ground and adrift on the cool spring winds.

Winter Reprise Surprise Run

Sunday Runday, and yesterday morning I did some work in the yard, took the dog for a lovely spring walk, sat in the grass, cleaned up some flower beds, and generally enjoyed the spring.

This morning we met for a run on icy sidewalks and through ankle-deep snow.

These woodpecker winter days are nothing too surprising for anyone who has lived here very long. The gentle-jabbing joke that quickly circulates on text threads between local friends is “ok, who put their snow shovels away for the winter! It must be your fault!”

So, surprise… no.

But it is still very much a shock to the system when one is expecting something slightly warmer when planning a spring run.

I’d already cleaned up and packed away all my winter running gear. The mitts, hats, heavy jackets all tucked into the closets once again. The shoe spikes hidden away for next winter.

Maybe it was my fault the snow came back for a reprise.

We immediately made for the trees and escaped the icy city streets dropping into the river valley trails. The snow was deeper there but the ice was far less dangerous.

The snow storm had blown in quickly and aggressively, dropping a near-horizontal storm on the whole region. Somewhere between five and ten centimeters of fresh white powder covered the ground and then also the west side of everything. Wind. Horizontal snow. It sticks in unexpected places. The fluffy white kiss of winter’s last gasp clung to the trunks of trees and every branch of every tree creating a magical scene along the trails.

I spent almost as much time snapping photos as I did running.

As much as we’re used to a fresh snowfall here, it never ceases to be a breathtakingly beautiful opportunity to inhabit these familiar spaces as they are temporarily dressed in an all-encompassing snowy veil.

And temporary is the key word.

Even on the loop back I could see the melt begin.

Have you ever felt that sensation of momentary awe when you witness some bit of slow-motion nature happen in real time. Like, when you walk through the woods and a branch tumbles to the ground from high up in a tree. It has been growing there for years attached to the trunk of an even older tree, and then in that one moment as you pass by it happens to reach a critical tipping point between gravity and connection, and it falls down to the ground.

This morning was like that, except in high speed clumps of snow were loosing from their grip on the woods, tumbling through the lower branches and releasing a puff of snow as they crashed to the ground, here, there, here, over there, and there too.

Even the slippery city walks had mostly thawed as we returned to our vehicles and stopped our GPS watches for another successful Sunday run.

And by next Sunday, likely as not we will be back to treading through familiar spring trails and snowy paths will be just another week gone by.