On My Mind: The animals know spring is near

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If ice storms weren’t so frightening and dangerous (please, God, don’t let the electricity go off, don’t let the trees and wires fall down, etc.!) they’d be beautiful. I’m sure the folks in northern Trumbull County saw nothing beautiful in their damaging storm this week, but our area was spared the problems and had no trouble.

Here, every branch, every twig, every lowly bramble extravagantly flaunted diamonds, perhaps presented by an unseen jeweler, perhaps overnight by a magic fairy with a magic wand.

Their moment of glory was at sunrise when they exploded into a blinding radiance that remained until that same sun’s warmth stripped them of their finery.

Watching the birds on such a morning, I saw a cardinal actually slide on a wisteria shoot as he tried to reach the suet. Yes, “my” cardinals have developed a taste for suet and the same one that learned to hover over summer continues to do so.

He is the same one with the luminous tail and has been coming here for at least three years.

But despite the relentless cold, ice storms and snow, birds know the time has arrived to put on their best behavior for the opposite sex. Male cardinals are testy with one another, but they court the girls and tenderly feed them sunflower seeds.

With all the strange weather everywhere, one wonders if the buzzards will keep their traditional March 15 appointment at Hinckley.

Red-winged blackbirds have flown in. Goldfinches look just a feather lighter than they have all winter and when, on March 3, I scraped snow from the base of the flag pole, sure enough, there were snowdrops in bud.

One morning last week, I stepped out the back door to feed the birds and was nearly overwhelmed by the pungent smell of skunk! It had definitely been upset by something and left its weapon on the porch. I’m so glad Winnie is a house dog!

I had been noticing what I thought were little cat footprints in the snow, but since I hadn’t seen a cat — and Lisa is very much a house cat — I didn’t know what to think. Now I know who left those little tracks.

Walking through the kitchen about 5:30 last evening, I glanced to the side yard and jungle — and lo, nosing around the huge white lilac were three fat deer. It appeared to be the mother and perhaps last year’s twins, as they were almost her size.

They dallied for a few minutes, then ambled south until they came to the driveway over which they sailed as though they had wings — what a joy to watch!

They are obviously the ones that have left many tracks in the snow and for whom I put out corn, although I’m sure raccoons and bunnies get some of it.
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My naturalist friend, Randy Jones, passes along to me wonderful environmental/nature magazines and I find great nuggets in them to pass along to you.

There is this thoughtful poem by Mary Oliver in the National Resources Defense Council publication:

“Look, children, here is the shy flightless dodo; the many-colored pigeon named the passenger; the great auk, the esquimo curlew, the woodpecker called The Lord God Bird …

“Come, children, hurry — there are so many more beautiful things to show you in the museum’s dark drawers.”

National Wildlife tells us how to save some 53 million trees that are harvested annually to produce the 10 million catalogs mailed to Americans.

A new free online service can rescue your mailbox and the trees: Catalog Choice has signed up more than 280,00 customers who have declined nearly 3.5 million catalogs. To learn more, visit www.catalogchoice.org.

A Texas friend sent me a sweet article about a Cape Cod cat, “Peaches,” who “repeatedly goes to the door that used to be the way out but is now blocked by snow, and meows to go out. He is looking for springtime but retreats when there is snow instead.”

Continuing: “It is, after all, the only way to live through a winter like this one. It is necessary to keep the image of flowers blooming, birds chirping, temperatures always above freezing, in order to endure the winter.

“It has occurred to me that the same thing is true for getting old. It is easy to feel all the good times have passed and only the aches and pains remain.

“But when winter comes, literally or figuratively, there is only one way to deal with it: an optimistic, never-ending search for spring and the renewed joys it brings: digging once again to plant tomatoes, hanging out talking to neighbors after months indoors, feeling the sun warm your body.

“Peaches has taught me not to accept a winter of the soul at any age. The insistence on opening the door, this fundamental optimism, makes the winter endurable.

“We need to keep opening the door every day of our lives. Peaches is right. The search for spring is spring itself.”

I’m sorry no author was indicated but she said it all so very well.
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Internet snicker for the day: “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”

About the Author

A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More Stories by Janie Jenkins

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