Saturday, March 17, 2012
Why We Live Here: Signs of Spring in Western Washington
With our especially chilly and wet March this year, most Northwesterners are getting impatient for warmer and sunnier days. I was tempted to hop on a jet and join a friend returning to Phoenix this week (80 degrees, sunny, and dry!), but work obligations keep me tethered here.
So instead I take a walk through a lowland forest in Seattle's Carkeek Park during a welcome sunbreak this afternoon.
And I fall in love all over again with where I live. A lowland Pacific Northwest forest offers up many early spring treasures.
While I love traveling around the world, nowhere do I feel more at home than walking through a temperate Northwest rainforest. Our lush forests west of the Cascades are thick with an underbrush of sword ferns, salal, Oregon grape, and a host of native flowers like bleeding hearts and miner's lettuce.
And plenty of moss of course.
Today I notice lots of sweet spring flowers like red-flowering currant. I even see a few salmonberries starting to blossom. Stinging nettles, a darling of local foodies and chefs, are emerging from the forest duff.
Along Piper's Creek, a tired-looking great blue heron sits streamside, not moving when a toddler and I venture within just a few feet before noticing him. I wonder if he's nearing the end of his life. The late fall salmon runs are long gone now, so I'm not sure what drew him here.
With all the rain we've had the last week, there's lots of mud and a little lake around one of the picnic tables in the Carkeek gully. No picnic here today.
Delicate white snowdrops, although past their peak, are in bloom too. These are not native to the Northwest but are remnant bulbs from a long-abandoned orchard. Since then the snowdrops have multiplied and spread through a patch of forest near a small tributary to Piper's Creek.
The way I see it, my walks in these Northwest woods are as important as eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep. I feel nourished by my walks through all this thriving native plant life.
How about you? What signs of spring have you noticed recently, wherever you live?