A blog focused on nature, science, environmental topics, and happenings at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC).

A Naif in the Forest by Darrell Berger

Wing Tips to Hiking Boots: Musings of a New, Full-Time Poconos Resident 

T. S. Eliot wrote that April is the cruelest month and this is certainly true in our part of the forest. Plan for an April picnic; get a snowstorm. Spring baseball practice is an act of optimistic endurance. When to take bird feeders inside and put seeds in the ground is a mystery.

March by contrast is the month of low expectations. The equinox announces the return of the sun, but does so with a whisper. All we ask of March is that it be better than February, which is like asking a Ford Pinto to be better than a Chevy Corvair.

This photo is an example. It shows the first time I’ve seen the ground in months. Weeks of melting finally dwindled the depressing piles of snow that have covered everything. The snow still dominates, but this patch shows is on the run. The dogs love being able to sniff and dig in dirt again. It is not the end of winter, but is a harbinger of the end, the first evidence of the equinox approaching. This otherwise drab patch of desiccated leaves and pine needles is beautiful to me, not for what it is, but for what it promises.

This promise has been celebrated in holy days and rituals around the world. The key part of rituals inspired by the equinox is that humans do not save themselves. They depend upon forces far greater than themselves. Both Passover and Easter show God saving people who could not do it alone. In older rituals, Ishtar returns to the Babylonians, Jamshid to the Persians, Ostara to European pagans, so that humans will not starve in the dark.

This year the hope of receding gloom is about more than snow. It is about surviving contagion and ecological disaster. It is no longer sufficient merely to call upon the sun to shine. Unlike years and even centuries past, what humans do or fail to do now has a determinative impact on human survival. It’s been a long, cold lonely winter.

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