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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: February 27, 2020

Janie Thibodeau Martin

A Tease of Spring

Last week was long for me. My husband was away, enjoying milder weather, a visit with our star granddaughter and her parents, and working a little".and I was battling through four fresh inches of snow with two days of significant drifting followed by two raw and windy sub-zero mornings in a row.

But oh, the weekend. Three straight days of sunshine and above freezing daytime temperatures " a gentle tease of spring. Much like the "Indian summer" bonus bit of warm weather in fall, this spring tease reminded me that yes, mild weather is truly just around the corner.

Instead of fast walks with my head down against the wind, I took my time walking our dogs and the dogs at the animal shelter, looking for and finding positive signs of a shifting weather pattern everywhere. The first sign, however, was heralded by nearly incessant barking in our house. The trees just outside our patio were full of black, grey and red squirrels, not focused on robbing the bird feeder; rather they were settling territorial squabbles in preparation for mating season. These squirrel scrimmages drive the dogs absolutely wild. The dogs can see the little tree rodents are in a distracted state, paying scant attention to potential airborne or terrestrial predators, and that hunting conditions are therefore ideal.

The next cues were what I heard " the relentless hammering of woodpeckers, designed to announce the presence of each pair of birds in preparation for nesting. This loud hammering is totally different from the sound woodpeckers make feeding. It's intended to grab the attention of other woodpeckers and convince them to look elsewhere for territories. And all the other birds have gotten more vocal as well. This year has been disappointing for both the quantity and variety of birds in our woods; but those that are here are now vocally announcing their presence. I love hearing the bright sounds of the chickadees, such positive and inspiring little singers.

The number of animal tracks in the woods has increased as well, even as the snow got deeper. There is motivation to move around, and snow is the "tattle-tale" media that allows me to spy on them.

There are several open spots on Alice Creek where I can see and hear running water. Either the creek never froze hard all winter because spring water has continued to force its way through, or there is already melt water eating away at the ice from below. Either way, water is available and critter tracks along the stream show it has been noticed.

I don't yet see any sign of the trees waking up but today I saw plastic buckets hung on maples in a yard not far away. Either someone is preparing extra early for syrup season, or is hoping this warm spell stays around long enough to wake up the trees now.

Finally, I am thrilled to report sightings of both a famous "Wisconsin Shorts Guy," AND a "No-Coat Wisconsin T-shirt guy" over the weekend. (Wisconsin Shorts Guys are men who wear shorts, exposing their bare lower legs, all through the winter; however, they are relatively scarce in January and February prior to the major times of migration. T-Shirt guys are similar, but tend to be totally absent in January and February, normally appearing in greater numbers around mid-March. Both are usually spotted at gas stations, however, this t-shirt guy was at church.) Since I know T-shirt guy personally, I inquired when he'd be switching to flip-flop footwear, and he's thinking no more than three weeks from now if the weather persists. That's a hard money bet sign of spring. (For those who are wondering, no, I have never seen a "Wisconsin Shorts Gal." If you have had sightings in public of this extremely rare phenomena, let me know!)

I know we will get more sub-zero weather. I am positive we'll get a couple more snowfalls. But each day is getting longer, and the ice fog mornings are an incredibly beautiful harbinger of spring. I am taking my cues from the animals, who can't be fooled. Spring will not be denied, and she's stretching herself now to get ready.

Thank you to a lovely couple from Pembine who recently drove all the way to Central Wisconsin to adopt a "puppy mill" dog from the shelter where I volunteer. They contacted me after I wrote about the "littles" (small breed dogs) not liking their nighttime potty walks at the shelter the night of a blizzard. Their inquiry eventually resulted in the adoption of a small seven-year old guy who has never experienced life in a home, having gone from a large scale breeder directly to our shelter. And he's never known the love of his own people. Thank you two Marinette County residents from the bottom of my heart for this happy ending, and for having the patience and kindness that will be needed to give Freddie his best life ever. You two are my heroes of the week.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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