I live in a part of the country, southern New England, where this was The Winter That Wasn't. We had two storms that gave us any snow to speak of, and only one of those storms required any serious shoveling. I hate shoveling, so I was grateful. Mostly. But I worried about the environment in general and in particular, about the wood patches and marshes near me. Would the warm winter destroy the spring? I went looking for spring.
There were signs of deer everywhere in the woods, signs which I almost stepped in more than once. Ticks were everywhere, too, all species of them. The winter never got harsh enough to send them into hibernation or whatever it is those vile creatures do when it gets cold. It takes a lot to stun a tick, I guess, and this winter just didn't have what it takes. The ticks are back now stronger than ever, but I don't consider them a sign of spring.
In February the daffodil shoots appeared. They came toward the end of the month, pushing up through the leaves back in the secret places in the woods. The ones beside my driveway were more courageous, or at least the recipients of more warmth, reflected from the driveway. They are almost ready to bloom now, while the ones in the woods are still gathering strength. I love daffodils and narcissus; they always mean spring. But there is another plant means spring just as much as the daffodil. I'm referring to the skunk cabbage.
Yes, I did just write "skunk cabbage". The eastern skunk cabbage in particular, that wonderful, smelly harbinger of spring. Actually, they only smell if you hurt a leaf, and it's not *that* bad. Skunk cabbage can create its own little warm mini-climate through thermogenesis, raising its temperature above that of the air. It's a chemical process, of course, but to me it seems like magic. And skunk cabbage is beautiful, pushing through the soil in mottled purple before the leaves open out in green. Skunk cabbage was considered to have medicinal value in the past, and it's edible when cooked. I've never eaten it, although a character in a book I'm working on has. Yesterday I found skunk cabbage in the woods and it made me happy. Spring is here.