Just looked out the front door, and guess what I found in my yard…
Just looked out the front door, and guess what I found in my yard…
I thought I saw them in this balmy weather — that’s right. I have to go and clean their homes. So I walked out to the North Vineyard and removed the debris from last summer that was left in two bluebird boxes on my vineyard posts. As it was such a nice day, I was brought out further into the Old and East Vineyards for a stroll. Probably half an hour later I came back closer to the bluebird boxes. I was slowly walking from vine to vine to see how they were doing. Then one moment I happened to look up to find a pair of bluebirds checking on one of the newly cleaned boxes out there. — Yes, it’s your home if you like. They saw me and paused for a while, then started to fly away as I walked closer to them. That’s OK; I will see you there this summer raising your kids again like a few years ago. — I hope.
I have my desk along the north wall of my house, and there is a window not too far from where I sit and work. I have a pair of thick curtains on all the windows in my house that I like to keep open during the day and close at sundown regardless the weather. However, when I quit using a wood-stove several years ago, I found out how drafty my house could get in winter — the massive heat of the wood-stove was covering up that fact. Naturally I started to keep the curtains closed when it was cold outside, especially the ones on the window on the north wall that was almost next to me. They didn’t quite stop all the chills, but were better than nothing. Consequently, I learned to keep this pair closed during the winter.
Though it remained relatively mild this winter, I kept the curtains on the north window closed. When the balmy weather suddenly arrived a couple of weeks ago, I stood right next to this window one morning and thought about a moment, then pulled the string to open the curtains. The light rushed in and made the whole house brighter. I could see a few starlings perching in the red maple tree next door above the Winery Barn.
I instantly recalled the kigo, a word or term that must be included to describe a season in a Japanese haiku; “Open the North Window” (if it were English) is used to indicate the haiku is about spring. They used to (or maybe even now in some regions) close up any openings, windows and sometimes doors, on the north side of their houses to prevent the winter cold to sneak in. They often literally nailed some boards to close them tight. Once the spring arrived, they went out to remove the shields that kept them warm but dark during the winter. I thought I understood their joy to let the light come in again and the relief that the bitter winter was finally over.
The vernal equinox is behind us and the sun has started his trek north to the summer solstice. There is the period every summer when the setting sun over the Lake can be seen from this north window while I sit around. That’s what, of course, I’m looking forward to now.
The first invasion of the polar vortex of the season to Northeast was taking place earlier this week. The frigid air mass travels over the open water of the Great Lakes causing the formation of significant lake effect snow bands. If you are on the leeward of this air flow, you’d be getting feet of snow in no time.
Many of you ask us how often we get buried in the deep snow after seeing our proximity to Lake Ontario while visiting our Tasting Room. The answer is “not much”; at least not as often as you might expect.
The heavy snow fall occurs most often when the air travels the longest fetch of the Lakes: longer the path, more moisture supply for the snow bands from the Lakes. Thus typically the heaviest lake effect snow episodes occur with the westerly airflow to the east of the Lakes. So for us here the lake effect snow becomes an issue when the wind direction changes more toward northwest.
This Monday the weather pattern was a textbook case of the heavy lake effect snow to the east of the Lakes behind a strong arctic cold front. I saw the Lake Ontario band over the Lake a little offshore from us with lots of whitecaps surging toward the shoreline. I turned back to the vineyards and saw the Lake Erie band above the horizon. In between there was sunshine all day long with a few stray clouds every now and then though it was windy and pretty cold.
At the end of the day the thin Crescent Moon was above the Drumlin when I walked out to pick up the day. The sun was already behind the Drumlin and the western sky was bright in the evening glow from the horizon to the mid sky. The Moon appeared to have started to be laid back — when you see a crescent moon, it looks either standing up straight in fall or laid back in spring, or in the transition phases in between. In the piercing west winds in the middle of the lake effect snow bands I was confident to have found a sign of the coming spring.
December has started out with rainy days. I see lots of birds moving around in the brush nearby so pull out my binoculars to take a peek. Believe it or not, we always have year-round Robins along this lake-shore. It is no exception today that they are there pecking on sumac and other weeds. Of course, Chickadees, Finches and Cardinals are among them, too.
Two years in a row we experienced a frigid winter. This year it came with the honor of February 2015 being the coldest month in history in much of the eastern U.S. It was cold indeed, but while being busy with lots of paperwork and shoveling the snow, it went away like a dream.
In March I did three watercolor paintings that will become the new labels this year. I introduced my old customer-friend who gave me his painting in the last newsletter. Perhaps he motivated me to pick up my brushes again this winter. It was fun that came with new learning. I’m now so thrilled to put the new labels on the bottles in the next month or so. As usual they had to go through the approval process by the Federal agency, and I just got it a few days ago. Now it’s time to bring them to the printer.
Snow has mostly receded from the vineyards. It’s time to get out there and start moving. Red-tailed hawks and crows are arguing who will get the spot on the telephone pole. I would rather listen to the finches and cardinals chat — I’m now waiting to hear the loud killdeers overhead and in the twilight the nasal whispers of wood thrushes and nighthawks in the wood.
I walk out to the field looking for
the gathering of the Planets. Over the horizon
what I see are the countless fireflies.
They so freely fly up, and
cross the night sky — playfully competing
their acrobatic skills with the shooting stars.
Good-bye is always
in the evening glow
when the sun
goes down onto the Lake.
along the horizon while
ripples are golden by
reflecting the setting sun.
We looked for the Young Moon,
but found Venus instead.
probably the last stroll
on this shore
I picked another old poem from my library to long for the spring. It was written in February 1983 during my last spring in Tokyo before heading for Oswego in September. “Daphne” in this poem is an evergreen shrub of Chinese origin, , that is praised for its small fragrant flowers. It’s probably too cold here to grow them outdoors, but does anyone know if they are available now in the U.S.??
by Fumie Thorpe
Periodic precipitation is
a sure sign of spring.
Each raindrop must be encouraging
the greens to burst in the soil.
The north wind is howling; though,
the sun is shining through the city streets.
The florets of the Daphne have just started to show their white interiors
as if to fill my sight with their scent already.
It makes me feel dizzy somehow when
I think of the best of the spring;
that is promised to arrive here
from as far as where our dreams go
to embrace us all with the flowers and songbirds;
and nothing more than the blessing of that southerly breeze.
This is my “Starry Starry Night,” originally written in Japanese in December 1993. I was startled by knowing that it was 20 years ago!
“Vincent” or “Starry Starry Night”
by Fumie Thorpe
Orion and Canis Major dominated the view outside the window.
When I skimmed along the horizon; I thought I saw,
I thought I caught the twinkle of Canopus 
on the eastbound toll highway many years ago.
The memory continues to embrace me, but
here I am on this northern land where
Big Dipper clears the Lake effortlessly.
Canopus has no chance to come into my sight.
When the twilight fades into the darkness of the night,
Northern Cross emerges to stand firmly in the western sky.
The vigorous flow of Milky Way surrounds it, then
gently streams through the Autumn constellations in the southern sky.
If I couldn’t find any hope in this Starry Starry Night,
perhaps I wouldn’t be able to carry on.
Just like the moment when
you lost yourself in that Starry Starry Night. 
 The alpha star of Carina, Canopus is the second brightest star in the heaven. It was called “the Star of the Old Man” in ancient China, and was believed to grant a long life to those who could glimpse it from the latitude around 35°N, where it rises only a few degrees above the horizon that makes it very difficult to be seen.