Surely, you’ve noticed the increasing the light!
We’ve already gained threequarters of an hour since February began, and we’ll add another half-hour’s worth of blessed daylight by the time the month ends.
Our days are truly getting longer! Hallelujah!
Initially, most of this added light comes at the day’s end. Later sunsets and lingering twilight. Morning gain always seems to lag, though even now, sunrise occurs more than twenty minutes earlier than it did when February commenced.
The increased light is all part of a slow upward climb which started at the astronomical juncture of winter’s solstice. Mystical ancients viewed the burgeoning light as evidence of the sun’s progressive return; we scientific-minded moderns recognize it as resulting from earth’s cyclical tilt towards that life-giving star we call the sun.
Still, from our current vantage point well past the midways mark between solstice and equinox, there can be no doubt this additional light stirs myriad seasonal changes.
Consider backyard gray squirrels. Only days ago, their treetop gambols were simple games of mild territorial dispute and reckless tag. Yet that impetus has altered. Frisky play has turned into mating chases, charged now by the urgency of procreation.
Six weeks hence, a new generation of young gray squirrels will be born—though they won’t venture beyond their nursery nests for several additional weeks.
But squirrels aren’t the only one’s busy courting. February’s nights are regularly broken by the sharp yip of a dog fox calling for a vixen. A keen, glassy sound unlike their usual hunting bark.
Moonlit nights are also apt to be filled with the mating calls of great horned owls. Shivery, booming hoots which speak not of dire secrets but of domesticity.
Owls will, in fact, often go on the nest in February! Several winters back, in a hilltop woods overlooking the Stillwater, I came across a great horned owl sitting a nest atop a lightening blasted beech.
It was an ugly winter morning. A furious snowstorm was in progress. Wind shrieked through the barren trees. Yet that owl sat unblinking and immobile—as implacable and outwardly oblivious to the raging weather as a stone gargoyle.
An indomitable and obstinate predator who glared at me with savage yellow eyes. In an unexpected familial role. Yet somehow still as fierce and menacing as when floating on death-silent wings through the palpable darkness of a riverine woodland.
Along the trail I walk, cheery robins are regularly foraging in force. Every thicket and open patch sometimes hold a red-breasted bird sprightly engaged in the usual robin drill. Listening, head cocked, sharp eyes scrutinizing the duff at their feet…then, a forward-lean quick-trot of a few yards, where they pause, pluck among the leaves, and listen some more before starting the routine all over again.
And though they’ve been around all winter, whenever I see those robins, my mind immediately fills with thoughts of spring.
It won’t be long! Keep the faith! Hold on! Daylight is increasing.
Spring will have to follow!
This columns shared through the AIM Media Midwest group of newspapers. Reach this writer at firstname.lastname@example.org