Close enough to touch

I was awake a little after six this morning and the moon was just visible in the trees sort of south-east of the house. Then, half an hour later, it was right in the trees due south, passing quite quickly. I have Renee Fleming’s gorgeous cd of jazz songs, including her version of this Jimmy Webb song, “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress”, and thought of it as I watched the moon pass my window:

See her how she flies

Golden sails across the sky

Close enough to touch

But careful if you try

Though she looks as warm as gold

The moon’s a harsh mistress

The moon can be so cold

It’s in its last quarter, 38% visible, and it’s 23 days old. Or millions of years, depending on your perspective…

February is one of those months in which anything can happen. This month last year, we went to Amsterdam for a wedding, then to Portugal to wander. The grey canals, the lemon groves. Yesterday, driving down to Sechelt, we saw a Japanese cherry tree in bloom and there were crocuses, many of them, in full flower outside the Bank of Montreal. Yet the full moon in February is the Full Snow Moon or the Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Moon, (again) depending on your perspective.

The other day we were walking up on the Malaspina trail and we kept seeing pairs of ravens swooping around, chasing each other, some so close we could hear their wings — a strong beautiful sound. And we could see the buds swelling on the salmonberry bushes (Rubus spectabilis). In a couple of weeks, the first flowers will emerge from those buds, an unfolding of deep cerise petals that always reminds me of that fairytale Princess Furball, in which a young girl has dresses as lovely as the moon, sun, and stars stored in walnut shells; when the shells are opened, the dresses pour forth, impossibly beautiful. Like the salmonberry flowers, dresses of light, with the sound of black wings swooshing overhead…


We have — had — a copy of Princess Furball illustrated by Anita Lobel. I looked for it just now and couldn’t find it. It’s kind of a version of Cinderella, or at least it seems to come from the same rootstock. As I recall, the princess is promised in marriage by her father to an ogre and she runs away in a cloak of many furs with her dresses and a few other treasures hidden away in nut-shells. Her beauty and her cooking skills help her to win the love of a good king. So I can’t find our copy but have just read a variant of the tale, “Thousandfurs”, in my edition of Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm, by Philip Pullman, in which he offers his favourite fifty tales as well as providing wonderful commentaries at the end of each. In this version, the princess is running from home because her father has decided to marry her himself after the death of his beautiful wife (her mother). So the plot thickens and grows gruesome with that particular gloss.

from the marsh

Spring was well on its way last week with some purple crocus in bud in the garden, feathery new fennel coming up, a few snowdrops in bloom, but best of all, a kind of golden-pink in the western sky around 5:30 p.m. Late enough in winter to have premonitions of spring light. At this time of year, we watch for the thin scribble as a high jet flies south over Georgia Strait. There’s probably a way of figuring out its destination but it’s always seemed like an announcement, in bright silver against the indigo sky, to say, Not long now.

Brendan was here for the weekend. When we arrived home from collecting him from the ferry on Friday, he stood by the sliding doors and said two things. “It’s so green!” (He lives in Edmonton.) And ” It’s still light at 6:00!” But then when he came out the next morning, the world was white with snow. We’d had about 3 inches overnight and the snow fell until Monday, about 6 inches in all. So much for a spring respite from Alberta weather. We did go walking, all bundled up — or at least John and I were. Brendan wore a hoodie, insisting we couldn’t actually consider it cold!

So the salmonberry blooms are late this year, the buds only just beginning to swell on our local bushes. I’ve been watching a particular clump of yellow violets, hoping for a few early flowers, but I bet they won’t bloom for another month.

This week, though, the red-winged blackbirds have been trilling on the marsh we pass on our way to get our mail. We saw a bold male on a high tree above the marsh, singing for all it was worth. And this time of year, it’s worth its weight in gold — that tumble of notes over the marsh as we clumped by in our winter clothes.