Winter Approached Cold

February 21, 2015

Leaf Study: Bracken Fern #3

Our winter this year came early and colder than expected. All the forecasts declared this would be a mild winter, but that wasn’t obvious over parts of late November and early December. This was after a series of unusually balmy days in October. Now, as last year, we are heading into a much earlier spring than normal with the fruit trees already blooming by the 15th of February. There is only a very light snowfall in the Olympic Mountains despite copious amounts of rain near the Puget Sound. It appears that we’ll be having a drought this summer and, hopefully, we won’t be experiencing a cold snap as the plants would all be hit very hard. There have been many beautiful days this season and there will probably be many more, but that gain in beauty could be signaling a loss in other areas.

I took this shot on one of the coldest mornings of the year. The roads were slick with ice and the sky was clear and sunny that morning. This fern frond was in the shade near a dilapidated wooden barn and a hedgerow of Nootka Roses and other brambling native plants.

One of the things I most love about living on the Olympic Peninsula is how beautiful winters can be. There are the deep greens of firs and other conifers, the brights reds and scarlets of dogwood branches, rose hips and hawthorn berries, the dusky purples of some wild grasses, the parchment golds of fading bracken ferns, the bright yellows of the earliest flowers and the intense white berries of the Snowberry bushes. All these native plants decorate the landscape with muted and brilliant color both.

I grew up in the Mother Lode country of California, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. A much drier and more Mediterranean climate than here in Jefferson County. Winters there were frequently foggy and the colors I appreciate here were absent from the landscape. The oak trees stood as silent grey sentinels of dormancy. I had no idea then that I would someday live in a place where winter was wet and misty yet brilliantly colored like what I had imagined it might be like to spend Christmas in parts of rural Britain.

I think the many trips to visit my Grandparents who lived in the redwoods near Arcata (Humboldt County), California, had a very deep influence on me. The redwoods rose above everything on the undeveloped part of their property. The ground was rich with plant litter that made a perfect base for many different ferns, huckleberries and other plants that thrive in moist and mostly shady conditions. I always thought the deep woods were magical and so unlike the oak and manzanita covered hills were I was a child.

It took me a few decades to finally realize that the wealth of nature had been missing from my life and I arrived here in April of 2000. I have never regretted coming here, though it isn’t the easiest place to make a living. I guess the “vow of poverty” is offset by the stunning scenery and the joy of interacting with nature in its most verdant and lush form. Life sings anew even in the depths of winter here and I love seeing how each day unfolds with blustery weather or sunshine and wondrous cloud formations. I feel privileged to be a part of this grand display of how incredible nature is and how I am able to interact with it so intensely and personally.


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