Posted by: Jim E | February 26, 2010

Cottonwoods, Cattails and Redwing Blackbirds…

Spring in America…Oh, I know some parts of the country are in the midst of a snowstorm…or having cold temperatures…I know that exists…I lived in that environment most of my life…but I also know that about this time in February, people who live anywhere in America are ready for warmer weather…for crocus, daffodils, tulips, green grass and budding trees…

It is no different here in Arkansas, a more moderate climate but still looking for warmer weather…we are seeing daffodils coming up all over town…and I know soon we will have flowers on bushes and trees budding out…here it happens earlier than I am used to…but no matter where we live, new life is great to see…new beginnings…

When I was a kid, behind our house were maybe 10 huge cottonwood trees…they were about 60 feet tall and just to the  North of those trees was swamp (now today polite people do not want to use the term swamp…wetlands, marsh and other terms are used…but it was a swamp and it was “our” swamp)…it had been filled in a bit on the south…but it was still about a football field in length…there was a road on two sides of the swamp…but we had direct access to it from our backyard…it was perfect for a young kid…

In the winter we use the ice for skating…and for a shortcut to our friends house…but in the spring it became something else…it was the Mississippi River and we were Huckleberry Finn… or we were Indians on a lake…and we would cross it on our homemade raft…we used anything we could find to hammer together a raft and long poles to take us across the swamp…in the spring all the melt water from snow filled the swamp…and it was perfect for the raft…I don’t know how many hours we spent on that swamp…

Spring is so wonderful for all kinds of reasons…it has that sweet smell in the air…you can smell the earth exhaling after spending all that time in the grip of winters cold…and when those early warm days come…and the sun is shining, you can smell the ground exhaling…breathing out that wonderful aroma of spring…

For us in the swamp it might be a little cold yet…but by the time the sun came up strong and we were working on our raft…we took off our jackets and started across the water…it wasn’t very deep, probably a foot or so and cold…but the bottom of the swamp was a deep black mud…and it wasn’t fun to fall in…or step in for that matter…so as far as we were concerned, it being the Mississippi or a lake, it was too deep to go in without severe consequences…

All around us was new birth…the Cottonwoods starting to bud and they are a beautiful tree when all leafed out…in the swamp we were surrounded by cattails…last years growth because the new cattails were just coming up…not much above the water yet…but the old growth was thick and fun to try to go through…impossible as it was…and then, of course, were the Redwing Blackbirds…this was their territory…and they protected it…the swamp was full of them…the males came back North first…then a week of so later came the females…the males staked out their territory…and when we came close…they “dive-bombed” us…and they were for real!…it was great…

They made their nest out of the cattail leaves…cattails are a reedy marsh (swamp) plant…with brown furry spikes…that hold the seed of the plant…with long flat leaves used for mats or chair seats…those of you “swamp” dwellers know what I mean…and it was hard to see the nest of the Redwing Blackbird…they just melded into the color surrounding it…but they protected it at any cost…once you have heard their bird call you will never forget it…

So here we are today…sitting wherever you are…wishing for Spring…well, come with me to “my swamp”…I’m there in my mind…with the tall and protecting Cottonwood trees overhead…the sky is the bluest blue and there are billowy white clouds floating across the sky…and the cattails waving in the breeze…with the Redwing Blackbirds sitting on top of last years growth…singing away…and us, well, we are on our raft…floating across the water…the sun shining down on us…loving every minute of it…breathing in the aroma of the new life of Spring…

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Responses

  1. This was quite interesting and brought back memories of our spring in Michigan. With the winter weather up there, I’m sure they are all wishing for spring. I will be leaving Florida in a month to go back.

  2. Yes, I’m looking forward to spring. We don’t have any flowers yet, but probably will in the next couple of weeks.


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