by Todd Fulginiti

I’m sitting by a pond at Middle Creek Wildlife Reserve, near my home in Lititz, Pennsylvania.  The place is beautiful, especially for those few weeks each March when thousands of migrating snow geese and tundra swans stop by on their way up north.  

They were here a few weeks ago numbering near 100,000.  But by now, they’ve all moved on to their next stop.  The lake is bird-less, except for two blue herons who are fishing and flying around.

Middle Creek Pond a few weeks after the birds have passed through.

I’ve been thinking a lot about those migrating geese and swans this week.  I wonder if they’re finding the food sources they come here for each year, as spring begins to arrive earlier and earlier.  Some trees, bushes and flowers here have bloomed already and it’s still only March. 

I’m having trouble not being disturbed by the sight of their premature loveliness.

Monday, I saw bees feasting on a tree that had flowered early.  How did the bees know to come out so early?  Will the bees that come out according to their normal schedule have enough food? Or will the plants they seek have already grown past the proper phase?

Trees like this one seem to be flowering a bit earlier each year in southeastern PA.

We’re in a cold snap this weekend with temperatures dipping well below normal.  Plants are resilient, but I wonder how the temperature roller-coaster we’ve been on will effect them, and in turn, how their condition will effect the animals that depend on them, humans included.

We’ve had several 70 degree days this month- average daily high is only about 55.  This, on the heels of a winter that started late, and was interrupted by very warm periods.   We seem to be experiencing this more and more as I grow older.

Last fall, the leaves didn’t even start changing colors until early November, and most barely fell off in time for Thanksgiving.  That’s a full month later than what I remember as a kid in the ’70’s & ’80’s.

These changing patterns bother me more and more each year as I watch them evolve.  

This week, I learned that the science of studying plant cycles is called phenology.  It didn’t take much research to find out that phenologists are as concerned about what’s going on and as I am.  The early stages of global warming are here. This is not news, but that doesn’t make it any less disturbing.

I usually think of myself as being good at adapting to change, but I struggle with detaching from the natural patterns I’ve grown to know and love over the course of my life.  I don’t want to let them go.  I’m not sure I will or can.

The sentimental and emotional effects of altered seasonal patterns may be inconsequential compared to the practical implications they may have on the rest of creation.  Plants.  Animals.  Humans too.

Are we going to do anything about this? We’ve been talking about climate change since the 1970s. 

Snowgeese last March at Middle Creek Pond.

I’ve always been hopeful that we would get our act together, even as we let ourselves drive right up to the edge of the cliff, believing we’d pull back at the last minute with minimal consequence. 

But it’s getting harder to think like that. It seems more and more like we’re going to just keep doing what we’re doing; going about our daily lives in an environmentally mindless stupor, while politicians fail to deliver because they’re either greedy, foolish or both. 

Will we make the effort to refigure our society, and live in better harmony with the earth? I don’t know.

Middle Creek Pond is empty now.  The blue herons have had their fun and have flown elsewhere.  They’ll be back- it looks like their nest is nearby.

I’ll be back too; several times this year for hiking, and also next March during snow geese and tundra swan season.  I hope the birds found what they needed here this year and will return as usual.  I hope they haven’t given up on this place.  I hope Mother Earth hasn’t given up on us learning to live better and restoring her health.

And I hope we haven’t given up on ourselves in making that happen.

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