April 2006


In last night’s post about newts, I mentioned seeing hobblebush in bloom at the Horatio Colony Preserve here in Keene. Here’s a close-up of those hobblebush blossoms in case you’re not familiar with the species. Gardeners might recognize it as a variety of viburnum, and anyone in New Hampshire would recognize it as another welcome sign of spring. If hobblebush is blooming, can black flies be far behind?

Quick–can you spot not one but two red-spotted newts in this picture of the leafy muck near the shore of Goose Pond? In case you need some help, here’s a cropped, color-adjusted version of the above photo. Can you see the newts?

Adult red-spotted newts aren’t nearly as eye-catching as their bright red, terrestrial juveniles, known as red efts. Adult newts are aquatic and seldom seen, blending into their preferred habitat of mucky, leaf-littered pond water.

Here’s an even closer look at one of two red-spotted newts I saw sporting in the shallows at Goose Pond earlier this week. For months now, locals here in the Granite State have been following the ongoing story of a group of third- and fourth-graders from Harrisville–a tiny town not far from Keene–who have successfully lobbied the New Hampshire state legislature to make pumpkins the official state fruit. But despite all the pumpkin publicity, I’d guess many New Hampshire citizens have no idea that the red-spotted newt is the state’s official amphibian. Whereas pumpkins are large and easy to spot, adult newts are tiny and difficult to see: the only reason I spotted these two newts was they were swimming like minnows, and I took a closer look (thinking they were tadpoles) after seeing legs extending from their seemingly fishy sides.

You might think me a fruit for rejoicing over newts…but these aquatic creatures are yet another sign of spring in the Granite State. Some vernal sights are showy: there’s no missing, for instance, the hobblebush I saw blooming in the moist woods at the Horatio Colony Preserve this morning. While both flowers and fruit go out of their way, it seems, to be noticed, newts swim silently in dark, shady places. It’s good to know that in the privacy of an incognito existence, olive-green amphibians are right now busying themselves with making orange-red babies, their status as official amphibians secure as long as another crop of adults survives to swim and another batch of juveniles grows to crawl.

Currently infamous for a certain plagiarizing sophomore, Harvard University is typically famous for the prestige and accomplishments of both its graduates and faculty, of which I am neither. You don’t have to be Harvard material, though, to appreciate the leafy plants that put the “ivy” in “Ivy League”: plants that are greening up nicely these days.

Several weekends ago, after having taken a stroll at the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, MA, I zipped into Harvard Square to collect a gaggle of teenagers–friends of A’s daughters, none of them as famous/infamous as Kaavya Viswanathan–to chauffeur them back to A’s house. I figure any woman who agrees to host a sleep-over of some half-dozen reuniting teenagers deserves a little transportational help if not a medal and stone plaque in Harvard Yard.

While waiting to meet A and those teenagers over the best iced chocolate in town, I took a late afternoon stroll down the hallowed streets of Harvard Square, admiring the spring scene engendered by recently opened magnolia and crabapple blossoms.

I might not be Harvard material, but even I recognize a lovely sight when I see one.

Reggie atop Beech Hill

On a mild and gloriously sunny April day, the view from the top of Beech Hill is enough to awe even a scatter-brained dog. I don’t know what caught Reggie’s attention yesterday as we took our requisite laundry-day walk up Beech Hill during the half hour or so between Wash and Dry, but whatever it was held his rapt regard for several minutes: eternity in terms of doggy attention spans.

Reggie with bellwort

Unfortunately, Reggie’s contemplative admiration of the April landscape does not extend to an appreciation for botanizing. Yesterday the sunny side of Beech Hill was strewn with early spring flowers, including the first bellwort of the season. Bemused to find Mom kneeling on the ground trying to photograph a plant, Reg ran toward and nearly over said plant, nearly trampling us both in his enthusiasm: “Whatcha looking at, Mom?” Fortunately, Reg didn’t paw or pee on either bellwort or Mom in the process…but the encounter did allow me to snap a lovely macro shot of bellwort backdropped by blurry dog.

Luckily, I got other, better photos of the April wildflowers atop Beech Hill, which I’m saving for a future post. In the meantime, here’s a shot of the scene that held Reggie rapt for an eternity in terms of doggy attention spans. (Click on the image for an enlarged view.)

Panorama overlooking Keene

    Click here to see my lasting posting on Area 603, a single shot of downtown Keene on a clear blue day.

As if it weren’t bad enough that I carry my camera everywhere, I’ve now begun taking my camera with me when I let the dog out for his morning sniff-n-pee.

Understand that when I take Reggie into my unfenced backyard each morning, I’m sporting slippers and a shocking case of bedhead, having thrown a jacket over my pajama top and replaced pajama bottoms with jeans. And yet this morning in such a disheveled state of dishabille, I had enough awake brain cells to realize that the maples were unfurling leaves and blossoms alongside the flowering forsythias, an eminently bloggable moment. Although I might sleep, apparently the urge to blog does not.

I’m sure I was a curious sight to my neighbors as they warmed cars to go to work while I shuffled about in my slippers. The Army used to boast in television ads that they “did more before 9 am than most people do all day,” and I guess I can proclaim something similar, having shot the equivalent of a roll of film before breakfast, all in the comfy confines of my own backyard.

If any of my neighbors keeps a blog, I’m sure pictures of my slippered, bedheaded, half-asleep form will be appearing presently. But when you consider I waited an entire winter to see maple blossoms, can you blame my curious behavior?

Chilly April bridal shoot

The problem with getting married outside in New England in April is you never know what sort of weather surprise Mother Nature will throw at you. After a week of sunny days and summer-like temperatures, Saturday was brisk, cloudy, and threatening rain. Like April brides who wouldn’t be daunted by mere weather, Leslee and I remained faithful to our plan for a Saturday day-trip to Boston where we browsed the galleries on Newbury Street and took a quick, chilly jaunt through the Public Garden. This time of year, the Public Garden is green and tulip-studded, perfect in pictures. But if you’re a bride in a strapless dress on a 40-degree and overcast day, you’re blushing from cold, not modesty.

Leslee’s posted some lovely pictures of a springy Saturday in the park, and here’s a glimpse of the Boston skyline as seen from the greening Garden. Is it any wonder that folks stroll, take pictures, and get married here even on cold and overcast April Saturdays? (Click here for a larger version.)

Public Garden in spring

Goose Pond, Keene, NH

Just in time for spring, there’s an almost-new blog here in New Hampshire. Area 603 takes its name from the single telephone area code that covers the entire Granite State. (To put things in perspective, Massachusetts has nine area codes, several of which are devoted to the Boston metropolitan area alone.) Although New Hampshire might not have enough phone numbers to justify more than one area code, we do have enough resident writers and bloggers to keep a community blog populated with posts. Do click over to check out my first Area 603 post here, and feel free to click back often.

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