I've just about used up my repertoire of alternative winter gardening activities, things like perusing seed catalogs, poring over garden books, and planning new garden projects. Enough already! I want to get outside and get my hands dirty.
Still on most days recently, it has been just a bit too chilly outside or else the ground is too wet or else it is actually raining. So even on days when I can't get my hands into the dirt, I've taken to wandering around the garden searching for signs that winter is beginning to wind down and getting ready to relinquish its hold on my plants and me to its gentler sister, spring. I've found a handful of those signs.
A few days ago, I encountered a butterfly in the garden. All summer and fall, the garden was full of butterflies of many different varieties, but since our freezing weather started, I hadn't seen any except for the infrequent yellow sulphur visitor. This was not one of those, however. It was a Question Mark butterfly. A little research revealed that these butterflies are actually active here in winter, retreating to a hiding place on cold days, so you might not accept this as a sign of spring coming. Still, I found it very heartening to see a butterfly in the garden once again.
Earlier this week on a beautiful and pleasant day full of sunshine, I found an even more substantial sign of a changing season. As I was walking past the long-idle outside unit of the air-conditioner, I happened to glance that way and saw a green anole spread-eagled on the metal that had been warmed by the sun, taking in its rays. He looked so happy, if indeed an anole can look happy, that I just had to laugh. I hadn't seen any of these little guys since our most recent freeze, so I saluted him and passed on by, leaving him to his sunbath.
In another part of the yard, I was giving my old apple tree the once over when I noticed its swelling buds. It looked as though it's just waiting for some secret signal to begin opening those buds to the eager pollinators.
While I was looking at the tree, I met one of the pollinators. There was a honeybee, buzzing about the limbs, perhaps hopeful that some of the buds had already opened. He buzzed my face, but I assured him I had no pollen or nectar and pointed him over to the corner of the yard where a few more blueberry blossoms have opened prematurely, yet another sign of spring just over the horizon.
Examination of some of the woody shrubs turned up more swelling buds. The hydrangeas, the viburnum, and the azaleas all appear to be preparing for that time a few weeks from now when they will begin filling my world with a color other than brown once again.
If any more proof is needed, there is the song of the cardinal. Yes, he is singing his spring song once again - what-cheer, what-cheer, what-cheer. "Hold on," he seems to say. "Spring is coming!"