Tag Archives: spring

A felicitous and unexpected event

took place on Ellis Island. That’s my favorite kind of event, don’t know about you. A duck took it into her head to create a new family in an abandoned enclosed courtyard.

We have a few of these areas in the ruined hospital complex: semicircular, small spaces where patients would have been encouraged to go in order to take some fresh air. Back in the day.

Now the lovely little courtyards are crumbling, of course, and trees grow up out of the once manicured ground. Nice installation here by the French artist J.R. Perhaps not well known in America but applauded throughout the rest of the world as a photo-graffeur, J.R. wheat-pastes enlarged archival images on windows and walls. At Ellis, they lend a piquant magic to the surroundings.

How do ducks decide where to lay their eggs? Do ducks even think about it? By the way, how did a clutch of 11 eggs fit inside the womb of so diminutive a creature? Inquiring minds want to know.

Sometimes I feel like a teenager just learning about the world. And that’s something, for a wizened old woman like me. Always surprises, all around.

At Ellis Island, if you can tear your vision away from the scorching views of the lady in the harbor there are many other revelatory experiences to be had. Openings into other worlds.

But this one was not expected. I couldn’t see the mama duck, to begin with, she hid herself so well, even though I was told by a fellow Educator that she was in fact there. Then one day she appeared, and not only that, her eggs had hatched. If you know anything about ducks, you know that their eggs take about 30 days to incubate and that you should never under any circumstances try to relocate the nest, even a short distance, as the maternal progenitor might not recognize it as her own and fly the coop.

Ultimately eight brawny, uniformed members of the Parks Service came in with two by fours and built a ramp so that the mother duck could march up and out with her brood of ducklings (aka a waddle of ducklings). We’ve got it under control, the head of the team told me, a serious look on his handsome face.

Ellis is well known for processing immigrants, less famous for hosting wildlife. However, animals are abundant here, from feral cats and abandoned dogs to raccoons, a bewildered fox, geese, gulls and falcons. Also rats of course. I am hoping not to meet a raccoon on one of my tours. The critters all cross the secret bridge from Jersey, just as I do, and then I guess they like this habitat, or else they don’t know how to leave. The fowl arrive by water or air, of course.

Secrets and surprises are my favorite things. Something else I like, making mistakes. It’s humbling, and that’s how I grow.

Apparently the lady mallard nests in the same courtyard every year. The new family has to be helped out and led along the damp dank dark corridors of the contagious disease hospital to safety. And they made it.

Hooray. Nature triumphs over adversity, with a little help from burly humans. Good to know. Just watch out for hungry foxes.

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Weedy but wonderful redbud

buds out at the end of April-early May, strutting its stuff alongside highways and abandoned roads. Then it explodes into bloom. There are a few I pass going to and from Ellis Island, in Liberty State Park.

No one pays them any mind.

But the tree also plays well with others, at home in a civilized suburban yard, behind a chainlink fence.

I love this specimen because of the magical way its blossoms stray from the expected place, bursting forth straight out of the bark on its branches and trunk, like the one I caught alongside a busy street in Austin. The botanical term for this habit is “cauliflory,” and I think I like it because it is just so preposterous.

Redbud’s fuchsia is a color unparalleled in nature. Soon it will have heart-shaped leaves.

Ezra Pound wrote of “petals on a wet dark bough.”

That’s redbud, ravishing and ephemeral. Just like spring.

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Spring bears

One of my favorite images of spring is this target-practice bear we rescued from the dump, standing shyly behind just-bloomed daffs.

Of course bears are not known for being shy. A family of six, including the mother (called a “sow”) and her yearlings, recently made a play for a bird feeder in the Town of Goshen. It was the middle of the night.
They made a racket and then lolled around for a while, presumably digesting.

Black bears are on the rise in our area, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation warns that you should keep birdseed, pet food and garbage put away. The saying goes, “A fed bear is a dead bear,” because once a bear gets the taste of human food it will keep on returning and will eventually have to be put down. Tranquilizing and relocating them doesn’t work, as they have been known to go 300 miles to return to their familiar habitat — your bird feeder. And campers beware — keep all your food and cooking items in your car. If you camp without a car, I guess you don’t eat! These are beautiful animals and deserve the best we can give them. Which is not giving them anything. Bears can make it on their own, without humans.

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Foolish snowdrops

We walked along the Aqueduct, where the snow and ice were still sloppy and slippery, and saw the first snowdrops by the side of the trail. Snowdrops (Galanthus) come up so valiantly through the duff on their slender stems and you feel if they can do that, anyone can do anything. If they pulled through the winter, anyone can pull through their own winter.

But listen to Basho’s haiku:

All this foolishness

About moons and blossoms

Pricked by the cold’s needle.

It takes a lot of stamina to lift up your head, especially with a crumb of crumpled leaf like a hat upon it. It’s almost spring. Will we forget all about the life we’ve been living and go back to the way we were? Snowdrops come up through a storm. Can we?

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