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Abigail B. Calkin

A Blog of Personal Thoughts

Crocuses in Spring

May 2024

When walking to Friends Seminary one April day, I said to my classmates also from Greenwich Village—Margot, Abby, and Liz, ”Look at the crocuses!” They immediately looked skyward. Crocuses in the sky? What city girls they were! Completely astonished at their lack of knowledge of early signs of spring, I probably said, At the ground! They’re flowers! But I only remember my astonishment. How could they not know these beauties?

With all kindness, and gratitude, to these three friends, they arrived at my house on the way to school to wake me up and waited as I scrambled to pick an outfit and throw it on. I ran downstairs to turn off the oatmeal my mother had left on low in the double boiler for my breakfast. Off to school we went, always arriving about fifteen minutes late. I’m still not very punctual, but at least now my friends know what crocuses are.

This May, we have our 65th class reunion. Of the class of 25 in our Quaker school, a third have died, about a third won’t be there for their or spouse’s health or, in one instance a child getting married. The other third of us and some spouses will be there in full force. Three of us will fly in from the West Coast and one comes down from Canada to join our classmates. I’ll write about that for June 1.

In Alaska, our first spring flowers are here—crocuses and dandelions. Dandelions are not a flower but a weed that flowers in a most glorious yellow. The only reason my mother had us dig up the dandelions before they flowered, was to fix dandelion greens for supper. I found them delicious, even though she never washed them enough to get all the dirt off.

Crocuses

Now we have some daffodils and the tulips are not far behind. Last fall I bought and planted 50 bulbs. What glory!

Daffodils in bloom and tulips about to open. Two peonies barely emerge between them and the house. I need two more peonies this spring and more bulbs in the fall. I need a lot more daffodils here.

Daffodils in bloom and tulips about to open. Two peonies barely emerge between them and the house. I need two more peonies this spring and more bulbs in the fall. I need a lot more daffodils here.

Primroses coming along, but I think they got a touch of frost this spring.

Primroses coming along, but I think they got a touch of frost this spring.

One of my favorites just emerging, rhubarb. Pies plus more relish and marmalade coming in the near future. One year these plants were two feet tall the end of April and I made a pie. Not this year, but by June, I’ll make a rhubarb pie, always my favorite. (No strawberries, just rhubarb.)

One of my favorites just emerging, rhubarb. Pies plus more relish and marmalade coming in the near future. One year these plants were two feet tall the end of April and I made a pie. Not this year, but by June, Iíll make a rhubarb pie, always my favorite. (No strawberries, just rhubarb.)

This fall I shall buy another 50 bulbs. I like winter, my favorite season, so itís usually hard for me to enjoy the arrival of spring, but this year is different. It was a good winter of darkness and writing, but this year spring is different and it fills me with excitement. Spruce, pine, and hemlock donít turn greenótheyíre always green even though they often look dark enough to appear black or deep blue on winterís short days. Willow, alder, and cottonwood trees, blueberry and elderberry bushes now have their buds and green leaves emerging.

A juvenile white-winged crossbill. They love spruce seeds and have specialized bills  (a crossed bill) for prying cones open so they can extract the seeds with their tongues.  Males are red and females yellow. This little fellow is a juvenile, rust colored. They will nest any month of the year if there are enough cones.

A juvenile white-winged crossbill. They love spruce seeds and have specialized bills (a crossed bill) for prying cones open so they can extract the seeds with their tongues. Males are red and females yellow. This little fellow is a juvenile, rust colored. They will nest any month of the year if there are enough cones.

This little, fluffy juvenile was so hungry on April 10th that we nearly stepped on him. He didn’t fly away, didn’t even move, so determined was he to eat the spruce cone seeds. I stood this close to him and just bent a bit to take the picture.

Two weeks later, my husband and I headed to Juneau to visit our grandson on his 14th birthday. He brought a friend with him from Colorado. They went heliskiing, supervised by Reid’s dad who is our son. Seth is an avid heliskier who guides heliskiing and trains others to guide. Spring in Alaska is the best time for this. Not my cup of tea, but they love it.

The boys also loafed in the sun on the roof of Seth’s house. Reid has the room for getting on the roof and the ideal room for seeing the northern lights. The night before this photo, at 0200, I awoke his friend, Mason, to see the northern lights. He was game. As it turned out, one of the boys had set his phone camera to record them as they slept. It’s hard to tell what time the aurora will emerge, thus the recording while they slept.

Reid has a friend with the same birthday, born an hour apart. They are good Alaska buddies. A group of boys went to a cabin near the ski hill for an overnight. They all had their skis and mucked about in the late winter snow the next day. What a memorable way to celebrate turning 14.

Soaking up sun on an April day in Juneau.

Soaking up sun on an April day in Juneau.

I am amused as I remember a couple of years ago, Sethís partner came home one day to find Seth had fallen asleep while Reid was on the roof and six-year-old Sayler rock climbing in the yard. She went into a bit of a tizzy, but the children were fine. In the spring of their lives, they are still wise little individuals.

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