Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Notes from my Knapsack 4-5-14

Notes from my Knapsack 4-5-14

Jeff Gill


Uneasy earth, hopeful soil




Heading back from the high school along New Burg Street after dark, as we so often do in these weeks of play practice pick-up, the Lad and I heard the spring peepers.


Down by Ebaugh Pond and the marshy woodlot across from the middle school, the sound gets ever more deafening as April unwinds. Clearly large numbers are behind the swelling chorus, even if their size is tiny. You can feel the multitudes in their song.


Striking to realize: they were, not long ago, frozen solid. Yep, these little fellas make it through a couple of winters after their tadpole phase. Eggs and spawning and hatching all going on great guns right now, but the adult population doesn't all die and they sure can't migrate. So these amphibious wonders just deal with it: their biochemistry is such that they can literally freeze solid, and come back for another vernal orchestration once winter releases its grip.


The water is everywhere now, the ice and snow having melted and the showers steady; flowers are coming, snowdrops and crocuses and spring beauties starting to appear, and the second wave is all green spears and shoots of vitality if you know where to look. More flowers, more color, more life.


Beneath the life is the not-quite-not-life of the soil. Below even the organic mulch-ness of the various soils we find in modern Licking County, so much of it a thin O-horizon left after logging, old school agriculture, or outright scraping off of top soils built up so painstakingly over the last few post-Ice Age millennia.


There are stretches of that native soil that Jesse Munson so memorably tasted the night before arriving in downtown Granville in 1805, and said "this is good land, it will grow much." And plenty that's been ruthlessly planed off to sterile clay-laden subsoil's, with the barest inch or two of top soil imported and spread after the work of construction and development is done.


Whatever is below the grasses or mosses or fallow pasturage where you walk, it is likely to squish beneath your feet. Unless you stick to pavement, or are on the sandstone ledges around Sugar Loaf park, there's little solidity to the solid ground. You need to watch your step, and take care of your footwear if you get out beyond where the sidewalk ends. Saturated soils are everywhere, and at least our glacially compacted and deposited slopes are not as unstable as those in parts of the West, where solid ground became a slippery wave of destruction, of death.


Here, our soils are ready to bring life again to the landscape. The trees are pulling hard through their fibers to draw moisture back up and to fire up the buds to unfurl into leaves, the sap is indeed running (has already run the best it will, sugar-wise), and every perennial, all the shrubs and bushes, is filling out if not showing green yet.


And as for yellow – the forsythia is playing coy with us this year. Forget the weather predictions, because this year the rule book (which the plants don't pay much attention to) is out the window, and the windows are all up so it's safe to throw them hard and far.


When will the yellow fringe rule the hedgerows and sidewalks? Are the daffodils and forsythia going to make their statement with the fervency we expect of them? Time will tell, but the time for last snows is past. The sky may threaten, but Winter, we are done with you. Begone.


Spring, welcome. Come sit a spell.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about your signs of spring at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

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