Picnic Table Naturalist, Page 1: Uprisings

(Picture from: http://www.sierrapotomac.org/W_Needham/Pictures/MourningCloak_DTundra_060316.jpg)

(Introducing: my new occasional - hopefully bi-weekly - blog journal series for 2009...)

The Picnic Table Naturalist, Page 1 – Uprisings

Have most revolutions begun in the spring? It seems like the ripest time for them: our blood, having been chilled by winter, begins stirring and is ready to once again course freely and warmly, like the sap rising in the trees. We speak of “spring fever”, evoking the sudden flush of anticipation and activity. Societal uprisings aside, the word “revolution” also has a more workaday, but no less radical, sense to it. It simply means to come around again; to spin around, like the rotation of the seasons. In this way, it deals directly with the thawing of winter into spring. Many things are on the rise this time of year. The sap is rising, readying for the faster-paced arboreal growth of the warm seasons. Insects are steadily making their ways out from under bark and rock, to also warm their carapaces and cold fluids. No less than three downy woodpeckers were drumming for their dinner on some deadwood, taking advantage of the insects closer at hand, while I listened from the picnic table.

In the Christian tradition, another type of uprising, the resurrection of Christ, comes this time of year, symbolizing for many the reality of not only a new, but also a recycled and renewed life. And it is no accident that natural symbols of renewed fertility, building towards the summer’s fecundity, are prevalent this time of year: the egg; the chick; the rabbit fawn; the perennials rising from their chthonic beds.

Another symbol of the newly uprising season you can find in the Northeast is the Mourning Cloak butterfly. From my table, I noticed a distinctive motion several yards away, more noticeable through the crushed and sparse undergrowth. Thinking I knew what it was, I went to inspect, and found it indeed was a Mourning Cloak. This dark and beautiful butterfly overwinters in hideaways like fallen, dry logs, and as soon as the wood warms in the spring sun, emerges as one of the first of the Nymphalidae (brush-footed) butterflies to be spied in the woods or suburban areas. This particular butterfly seemed a bit wrinkled, as if it had just unfurled itself like a flag from storage, airing out its winter folds of velvety brown with yellow and blue purfle.

It can be difficult for us clock-bound humans this time of year to rise up, what with the shifting lanes of daylight-savings time occurring for many of us, messing anew with our established habits. But the rest of nature; it is oblivious to this random structuring of time, and continues on as normal, with the gigantic revolution of spring. For many of these creatures, though, it is not really a revolution at all – one among many in a lifespan – but rather the one time they will experience this season in their limited life. Seen this way, we can count it as a benefit to slog through the last bits of the winter, warming our minds with the memories of past springs, which we assume will repeat; returning with all the tiny pleasures and zephyr experiences of an ancient pattern that is created in a radically and completely different way.

This feels like the true New Year.

Alicia –   – (Sunday, 29 March, 2009)  

Re your last line--I had similar thoughts in the last week or two. I occasionally listen to Persian music via internet radio, and they celebrate their new year, Norooz, on the vernal equinox. I thought it seemed more fitting than our ice-cold January new year!
Norooz is spelled a multitude of ways, I discovered, and celebrated by many people in Eurasia. I believe it has Zoroastrian origins.

GIERSCHICK  – (Monday, 30 March, 2009)  

If I could be of any other religion (or had reason to want to be) I'd choose Zoroastrianism for sure. Definitely.

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