Winter passed

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Oh sure, it is possible that a little more winter weather will show here in Oregon but more than likely the squall of blossoms on the Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis) signals the final, farewell days of winter. It’s not just this first-to-bloom of native shrubs telling me winter once again is gone. Last week, a siege of Sandhill Cranes shocked me into the realization that winter has passed.

Despite the cloudless forecast I could only see darkness and stars when I looked skyward in response to hearing their calls. It was a large flock as it took several minutes to pass. The calls were loud and frequent but nary a feathered form emerged from the dark. There was no mistaking their beautiful, soulful bugle: cranes, heading north. Oh, how I wished they would circle overhead all night just for the chance to glimpse a slight silhouette of gray wings and long necks.

Their presence surprised me, caught me unprepared. Early migrants though they are, they seemed out of season. Had we even had winter yet? It didn’t seem so. There was an early January cold spell that broke a pipe yet so little cold weather or rainfall since. No school closures, no walks on snow-silenced streets, no sledding down on the hill at the end of the avenue, barely even a risen river. Instead, the winter was essentially done before it had started.

This week has been similarly shocking with the early passing of friends and heroes here in Portland. Sad news of the much too early death of acquaintances and well-loved members of our local pro basketball community and mountain bike community. I can barely manage to anticipate the passing of seasons or the passing of a 93-year old parent, so the earth reclaiming those many decades younger is especially hard to accept. Like the absence of winter, it’s downright confusing.

It’s like looking into the void of night, hoping for just a glimpse of a friend vanishing to the north, and seeing nothing: seeing nothing but memories of vitality and grace and the shock of realizing what could have been had they stayed a little longer.

For my friends reading: may you find solace in recalling the beauty you recognized in that passing flock that was your beloved.