Friday, March 19, 2010

Striped Squirrel Spring

March 7, 2010
Warren County Bike Path, near Glen Lake, NY

I am on the alert for the first signs of spring,

to hear the chance note of some arriving bird,
or the striped squirrel's chirp,
for his stores must be now nearly exhausted.
-- HDT, Walden

Another fantastic sunny, blue-sky late winter day! With the temperature getting to almost 50 degrees, the snow is melting apace. There’s still plenty of it around, but now one can walk on the trail and, in places, feel once again the earth and leaves beneath one’s boots.

The snow’s seemingly unending grasp on the land is broken, and it shrinks daily.

Years ago, my dear departed friend Nancy and I -- who were born in the same week of March – started a little tradition on our birthdays. She and I would drag out beach chairs, and sit in the snow, sunning ourselves in shirtsleeves. We called it The March Thaw.
It’s something to take advantage of, being a temporary phenomenon. Sometimes March comes in like a lion – and out like one too.

This weekend, the March Thaw appeared right on time.

There’s really nothing quite as nice as pausing to feel the warm and genial March sunlight on your face. (You wonder how on earth you can stand to do the same thing in July.)
We all crawl out from under our respective rocks for a few moments, and bask, sniffing a change in the air.

In this we follow the example of the chipmunks, who have not been seen since the snows fell. Suddenly they are everywhere in the still-snowy woods, chipping and peeping away like Easter-chicks.
The first one you see is year is like a mirage.

“Did I just see a – chipmunk?” you wonder, as what you think you saw zips over to the corner of your eye.
Zip ! zip! Their striped sides only serve as camouflage while they are being absolutely still, at which time it works admirably.

Like an independent russet leaf, with a will of its own, rustling whither it could;
now under the fence, now over it …
-- HDT, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

And yet, as if to toss away an advantage which took eons to evolve, they completely blow their cover -- by peeping.

Today I walked a wooded section of the Bike Trail, which follows an old railroad bed. As I stopped to admire the Unveiling of the Hepatica Leaves –

–- I heard that familiar chirp, and saw a quizzical face looking out from the rocks.
I stood as still as I could, keeping my camera up by my chin.

Then another face popped out to the left – and another to the right!

Then, furry little bodies zipped in out of out various crevices, like a shell game, till I couldn’t tell who was who.

Here they are, all popped up at the same time:

Hopefully, they are able to sort things out.

May not this season of springlike weather
between the first decidedly springlike day
and the first blue-bird, already fourteen days long,
be called the striped squirrel spring?

--HDT’s Journal, March 4, 1855


  1. What a delightful post...and great pics, too! I've been looking every day for chippies under the birdfeeders here at work, but so far no joy. I know it's still early days for us, but it's been so warm and mild that I feel that surely the chippies will be out and about at any moment!

  2. Oh my gosh! How do you get such great shots? That first one especially, such a darling pose and you can almost feel its soft tummy fur. And to get all three at once -- amazing! I also love the coordinating Thoreau quotes.