Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Oregon springs from winter

Photo of back yard taken last fall, with granddog, Milo.

Before moving to the Northwest from Wisconsin in 1999, I talked to a former coworker who had moved to Portland several years earlier. “Don’t the winters get to you?” I asked. She replied, “It’s not as if you live in Arizona.”

Indeed, that first winter on the Olympic Peninsula was a pleasant surprise. The rain didn’t come until November, and then, for the most part, only on work days. Just about every weekend was sunny. Incredible. And, I now realize, very unusual.

Wisconsin has a few more days of sun than Oregon or Washington. The sunlight is scattered, however, throughout the year. In the Northwest, sun is concentrated in the summer. It can sometimes go for two months without rain, or even many clouds to speak of. But winter. Well, it does get cloudy. And rainy. There are compensations. Here in Oregon’s mild Willamette Valley, it seldom freezes. Ponds and lakes fill up with wintering waterfowl. I can drive a mile and see hundreds of swans. Or I can drive north of Seattle and see thousands of them. I can drive to the coast and see wintering loons.

I remember that first winter in Washington, 1999-2000. I was at work. It was February. My office faced woods. I heard a motor, like a snow blower or a lawnmower. It couldn’t be a snow blower. There wasn’t any snow. I got up and walked down the hall to look out another window. Someone was cutting the grass. In February. What brave new world had I landed in?

Today is February 12. I worked for a couple of hours in my very compact but lovely backyard. This year, we’ve had some pretty cold weather by our standards. Shallow ponds and flooded fields froze for a week. The geranium I always plant in honor of an old friend had green on it until the latest deep freeze. The petunias still have some green. But the snapdragons in the window box have buds. The heather is in bloom. And the daffodil and tulip bulbs popping through are hardly worth mentioning. But I will mention it because I spent so many years in Wisconsin. A beautiful place, to be sure, with cardinals and indigo buntings and scarlet tanagers—and lots of winter snow. Still, there I was, trimming roses and noting buds on evergreen clematis and rhododendrons and even the flowering dogwood.

This afternoon, I’ll look for a certain pair of bald eagles that have begun nesting in earnest Feb. 14 each winter, not far from where I live. Other eagles will nest later throughout the spring. The rain and clouds will keep coming for few more months. I can take it though. Seeing plants bud and birds nest is as good as a sunny day.


Jess said...

Beautiful yard. The dog...not so much:)

Erin said...

I like this picture of Milo, he is so under rated.