Some animals at Zoo Knoxville enjoy a winter vacation indoors while others prefer the winter’s chill.
One of the most fraudulent seasonal terms is “dead of winter.” I’m guilty of saying and writing it myself, even though I know better.
The world outside your thermo-paned window may look deader than AAA batteries the day after Christmas. But be not fooled. Things are humming right on schedule.
This eternal truth revealed itself a few days ago as I, bundled like Nanook of the North, creakily removed red ribbons and green garlands from the rail fence in front of our house.
There is a happy medium between underclad and freezing versus overdressed and sweating. I skewed this delicate balance by climbing into layers of insulation — and still shivering. Perhaps I wasn’t moving fast enough. Geezers, like molasses, slow down something awful as the temperature plummets.
Anyhow, I happened to glance at the seemingly lifeless ground below the fence. Poking through the frigid soil were patches of daffodil blades, some of them 4-5 inches tall. I could imagine them casually saying, “What’s a little frigid weather? We’ve got work to do.”
Abandoning the task at hand, I stiff-walked to the edge of nearby woods, grabbed some of the closest limbs and made a quick inventory of buds on dogwood, post oak, beech and red maple.
Yep, just as I expected: All present and accounted for, although not quite champing at the bit like those daffodils. They’re patiently growing nonetheless. Their cycle may slow down or speed up, but it never stops completely, January or July.
Sure-nuff, death was obvious on some rhododendron buds, however, thanks to warm weather in late autumn. It convinced a few of them that spring was nigh. They jump-started the blooming process, only to get whacked when arctic conditions took over.
Yet there was plenty of life beneath the brown, curled flowers that crumbled to my touch. I’m no botanist, but it appeared to me the ones that didn’t get overly caught up in November’s preliminaries have plenty of moxie in reserve for the Dogwood Arts Festival.
There was birdsong, too. Certainly nothing compared to April, but more than enough to disprove this alleged dead-of-winter business.
A nuthatch “bee-bee-bee-beeped” (or however that weird winter call is best described.) A he-cardinal whistled somewhere up the hollow. In the sky to the south, crows renewed their daily fuss with our resident red-shouldered hawk.
Reassured that life is a 24-7-365 process, Nanook staggered back to those ribbons and garlands on the fence, then went inside to thaw by the fire. All was well with the natural world.
Sam Venable’s column appears Sunday and Tuesday. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.