Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Waves of Spring

Spring in Montana is an actual season.  If you're from here, that may not seem like a revelation, but if you're from elsewhere you might not believe that Spring can be more than an ephemeral concept.  

This year Spring has lapped up over the Bitterroot Valley in waves: big, warmish Spring snow storms, the melt-freeze cycle, the appearance of glacier lilies in sunny, protected spots in the forest, songbirds, many warm days. Every few days for the past month or so Spring has washed something new to my doorstep.

I woke up this morning to the sun streaming in my window and a profusion of bird song (and my cat, who has adamantly decided that sunrise is breakfast time).  I took myself out for a walk even before coffee to see what I could see.  I tried my darndest to take a photo of the birds flitting through the sagebrush, but only the robin stayed still long enough for a portrait.

A few of the plants have decided that Spring is firmly enough entrenched to send out new growth.  One or two of the Cottonwood trees have tiny new leaves.  The mock orange (pictured above) is the most precocious of the flowering shrubs.

Water in the "Big Ditch", the main artery of the Bitterroot Irrigation District, is the true signifier of Spring in the Valley for its human population.  The ditch carries water from the enormous Lake Como for 72 miles through the dry East side.  Now that there is water, the fields have started to come alive.

The sound of sprinklers running on water from the ditch is the new normal.  Last night the temperature dipped below freezing and the trees and fence line were covered with sprinkler icicles.  My environmentalist self balks at the water shooting out across fields and lawns, many which will not grow food - but I'm told that live, green grass helps prevent fires from spreading later in the season.  It also keeps noxious weeds (the kind that are bad for horses and other livestock) from outcompeting the nutritious grass species.

Waves of Spring will continue through all of the micro climates at different elevations and aspects until the snow falls again in autumn.  I'll be out walking through Spring flowers in August somewhere up high.


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