When Winter strips limbs bare and shivering the woods could pass for dead. A white blanket shrouds even the moss and blades of grass that never quite fade to grey or blacken like the piles of leaves. How then to judge the condition of fledgling grape vines first weakened by transplantation, then by drought and finally by a Kamakazie (divine wind) attack of beetles? With the last drifts gone from the Bluecircle it’s time to take stock.
A few Pinot Gris vines, like the tulip poplars felled by high winds in August, have snapped at the ground and need no further inspection. Here and there there are empty spots in the rows where the uncertainty of survival has prevailed. In contrast, precocious buds emerge in a favored row or two to inspire confidence. The practical approach turns out to be simply bending each vine in turn. Most flex in their early Spring vitality and have survived the test of year 1. Sadly, some are brittle and can only yield memories.
Gulls are gathering on Paw Paw Lake to witness the passing of Winter. By afternoon there is open water on the north shore of Paw Paw Lake. The shade of the hills on the south shore shelters ice now too thin for walking. Each cold, clear March night with little wind allows refreezing, but darker cracks that reach to the south will soon free the lake for another year.
I suppose the gulls have fishing in mind and wait impatiently for more open water. They do not remain here in large numbers, possibly because seawalls bind the shoreline almost everywhere. The small areas of remaining beach soon will be scoured by ski boat wakes and there are calmer, friendlier waters nearby.
For 100 years most lakefront visitors and many property owners on the lake have hailed from Chicago. Like the gulls they are shorebirds that nest elsewhere. The change of seasons and Spring Break brings the first of these visitors who are essential to the lakeside economy. Soon they will fly across the waters on skis, tubes and pontoons. Until then the cold waters of Paw Paw will bask in the sun and slowly warm to the task of entertaining company.