Welcoming Spring by Bryony Schwan
Signs of spring in Montana depend very much on elevation and aspect. If you are on a southern aspect, spring comes a lot sooner with more direct sun exposure. As I skied into my rustic cabin at the base of the Swan Mountains in northwest Montana this weekend, the only evidence of the approach of spring was the weight and water content of the snow. While there was still about three feet of compressed snow on the ground, it was heavy with moisture. Not the light, fluffy flakes one associates with the sub-freezing temperatures of mid-winter. It was an unusual slog to ski the only 1.5 miles into the cabin because our skis sunk about eight inches with every step into the heavy snow. Our dogs, and especially my corgi Taz, sunk even further, disappearing from view every few seconds. The only way they could advance was to lunge up and forward with their entire bodies. Quickly exhausted, they finally figured out it was easier to follow in the compressed tracks of our skis.
With snow piled up the sides of the cabin and the lake completely hidden under a spotless blanket of white, it was hard to imagine that spring is near. The only other telltale sign was the shrill whistle of a red-winged blackbird I heard as I ventured outside at sunrise.
Heading home after a weekend of skiing and blissful quiet reading in the warmth of a crackling fire, I noticed the increasing number of patches of bare ground where the snow had retreated as we descended altitude toward Missoula. Thrilled and surprised, I discovered that the snow which had hidden my garden since early December had disappeared completely over the weekend. It only took two warm days and nights to encourage the tulips to poke their heads an inch out of the soil.
I love spring. As an African girl, I have never adjusted to Montana’s long, cold winters, even after being here for 30 years. For me, spring is the season of relief and anticipation. And, even as I know we will still awake many mornings to a white quilt blanketing the ground, it will likely be gone by noon each day. Every day nature will treat us to spring visitors. The robins will fatten themselves on the earthworms emerging from the warming soil. The snow geese will flock overhead as they return north to their feeding grounds in the arctic. In my garden, the rhubarb will unfurl its crinkly leaves, the lilacs will bud first and the hills will slowly green. As the birds plan and design their nests, I, too, will plan the summer changes to my nest and summer adventures.
Aside from the usual river trips, I’m excited about my upcoming activities at Dunrovin Ranch. I’m already lining up some ornothologists I plan to interview on Tuesday evenings during my live broadcast. I’ll also be exploring a lot of interesting topics including biomimicry (innovation inspired by nature), photography, music, meditation, philosophy, gardening, arts and crafts and much, much more with my program guests.
These are just a few of the exciting adventures and programs we have planned for our Days@Dunrovin members this spring and summer. Hope you will join us.