Thursday, April 20, 2023

A Poem for your April Heart


Spring Desire Paths


Lunacy and moonacy,

June plums and camas,

Pink, white and red flowering currants,

Maple buds and Saskatoons.

Salmonberries, bog blueberries,

Red huckleberries emerging from nurse stumps,

Arbutus and hairy manzanita,

Pussy willows, and blue-eyed Mary.


Follow the spring bloom with your heart.

Take the pollen path, trace the nectar map.

Follow the queen bumble bees, the frigid mining bees,

Blue orchard mason bees.


Follow the buzz into your heart,

Deep into your sense of purpose and grace.



Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Satyr Comma in the Heart of Vancouver



I visited the community garden at Vancouver City Hall and spotted a Satyr Comma butterfly on the Pieris japonica. It was really intent on sipping up that nectar so I was able to get some good shots. I am so grateful for meeting this wonderful creature. Japanese Andromeda is also a popular shrub with queen bumble bees and blue orchard mason bees. If you underplant it with kinnikinnik and surround it with native shrubs like red-flowering currant, osoberry and Oregon grape, it will function even better to support pollinators in your garden.


Note how the undersides of the wings perfectly mimic dead leaves.


Saturday, April 1, 2023

Desperately Seeking Pussywillows


The little English daisies are blooming in the lawn at Riley Park. The blossoms have short white petals, often tinged with pink around a circle of short yellow stamens. As I walked around the park I noticed a child had made an assemblage of ephemeral art with twigs, pine cones and daisy blossoms they’d plucked from the lawn. I also noticed a discarded item of winter clothing—a little orange toddler parka. It had been thrown aside, as if spring itself had thrown away winter. Time for me to shed my long winter jacket and toque. Time to wear something shorter, lighter, giving me more range of movement to bend down and take photos of ephemeral art. Time to wear a hat with a brim to shade my eyes from the brilliant sun. Time to put on 50 spf sunscreen. 




A man in an orange safety vest came and swept the collection of daisies and other objects away with his boot. Can’t have people tripping over the art, I guess. He picked up the jacket and put it in the playground so the owner could come back and find it there. In that moment I felt so happy for the child who had lost the jacket. I imagined that they were experiencing the transition to warmer weather, and feeling the sun on their skin. They wouldn’t fit into that jacket next winter anyway. This little human was like an insect, shedding its cocoon to emerge as a larger creature in the next stage of its life. I tried to convince myself I should do the same. I mean I’m not going to leave my coat on the sidewalk, but it does need to go back in the closet for next year.




My heart is gradually opening up to spring. I am breaking out of winter’s sheltering cocoon. My heart feels cautious, as if a bit frost bitten. Afraid we might have another cold snap like we did a few weeks ago.  But I am so hungry to welcome spring into my body and soul. I am ravenous for it. Two days ago I needed to get out and be in spring. I picked up some of the fuzzy grey calyxes that drop from the magnolia flowers as they open on Ontario Street, south of King Edward Ave. I want to use them to make art. As a prairie person, it’s taken me a while to befriend the magnolias, since they appeared quite exotic and gaudy to me. But now I love their ostentatious blossoms and soft, furry buds. Most petals are pink or white, but occasionally one sees a yellow-blossomed magnolia too. Kneeling and bending to pick up the velvet treasure feels good, but I know my muscles will ache tomorrow. Too much time spent in a cocoon, writing, drawing and dreaming. Time to emerge and start making and experiencing the seasons deep in my bones.



 One day last week I saw a juvenile hawk watch crows making a nest. It was making a curious kekking sound and not being surreptitious in the least. It eventually left with one worrying crow chasing after it. A few days later, I saw two crows mating on a branch next to their handiwork. The bees have been emerging as the temperatures warm. So far I’ve seen several queen bumble bees, and a very early male mason bee. The first mining bees and sweat bees are slowly starting to appear. I watch them come in as observations on the NBSBC Bee Tracker. The crocuses pop up in lawns, the heather blooms, and the osoberry and red-flowering currant open. The clusters of bright yellow Oregon grape flowers are just starting to open, and the satin flowers, lungwort and blue-eyed Mary are blooming as well. Remembering my experience from last spring I knew I needed to go to Queen Elizabeth Park to see the insect action in the pussy willows. The bumble bees were doing their orientation flights up just above the blooming willows. I stood under them, feeling them fly circles over and around me. I took it in as a blessing. How many generations of Bombus queens have performed this ritual here every spring? Do people realize how important willows are in our ecosystems?



A velvety mourning cloak butterfly floated over the willows toward the sun. In the distance a woodpecker was hammering away somewhere on a dead tree and a male Anna’s hummingbird was doing it’s “Skreep!” territorial dive--sounds made by its wings whistling in sharp descent. I lay on the grass for a bit, breathing in the fresh air and a small movement on the ground caught my eyes. I saw a queen fuzzy-horned bumble bee emerging from her hibernaculum in the dead leaves under the willows. What a marvelous thing to witness! The great awakening! She lifted up and few off before I could take a photo, circling up and above the willows again and again to orient herself to spring and its infinite possibilities, including the dangers that all queen bees face as they seek out a place to make their nest close to an abundant and reliable source of pesticide free nectar and pollen. I wish her well. My heart is full of hope for her and for us delicate humans, daring to hope for all the beauty spring has to offer our hearts, filling us with hope once again. 




Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find some blooming pussywillows. Immerse yourself in the activity of the bees, birds and butterflies and convince your heart to open to the awe-inspiring beauty of spring.