By Greg Lecker
Overcast skies envelope the natural world this weekend in the Twin Cities. Though I see walkers, joggers, and cross-country skiers, the Arboretum seems a bit lonely today. The wind has drawn patterns on paths with fine snow. With a light breeze, the air is colder than I had expected. The wind whispers through the tops of evergreens and shakes the leaves of the white oak. Hand-like, they wave at me.
Along Three Mile Drive I find a resident flock of turkeys. They often provide comic relief. Four turkeys move in such close synchronicity that I imagine them strutting a new line dance certain to sweep the nation.
At the Sensory Garden parking lot, juncos flit about brush piles temporarily stored there. I enter the woodland garden to seek shelter from the wind. Inside the forest, trees creak. I especially study a tree that is split with a large vertical cavity; and I spy a narrow crack of light that extends partially upward to a crotch between large branches. I detect no movement, yet I am wary – having witnessed the fall of a large oak bough onto Three Mile Drive back in autumn 2013.
The light violet gray downy blanket of the sky offers warmth but also a sense of dreariness that belies the beauty of this place.
A wind-swept view of the prairie is the best image I can find to capture the mood of the day in a photograph. The scene offers color and texture and shape; but the form of the hillside itself is flattened in the lack of direct light.
The seed heads of Hairy Golden Aster look fuzzy and warm – unlike my hands which are under-dressed in too thin gloves today.
Returning to the visitor center, I find that the turkeys have beat me there. They peck at seed lying scattered beneath the bird feeders. I leave them and retreat into the warmth and color of the orchid laden conservatory.
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.