mountainSunday it was 65 degrees and the first tender shoots of green were pushing their way up through the leaf litter.

I’m only just learning flowers and birds, so forgive my stumbling attempts at identification. Two of the apple trees were in full bloom, and tiny purple flowers — maybe Liverwort or Larkspur — dotted the field. On the trail along the stream, broad green leaves, possibly Ramps, had sprouted in the rich dirt. I think I spotted a Lady’s Slipper there, too, a juvenile flower tucked in a repose resembling prayer, hanging from a gracefully curved neck.

The trees had inched from dormancy, their stark brown twigs barely showing the first hint of life and color as leaf buds swelled and prepared to pop open. In town and at the lower elevations, a few brave Dogwoods and Serviceberries were already in bloom and several Willows hung with drooping green limbs.

That was Sunday. Tuesday, it was 24 degrees and snowing. Tiny white specks flew in the wind all night, flowerbut this morning they’ve turned to fat lazy flakes. Still, there’s only a spotty dusting of maybe an inch here at 3,000 feet. Up on Celo Knob, another 3,000 feet higher, it’s bound to be nearing half a foot, and the mountain’s triangular peak is a stark, frigid white, looking like the opened door of an icebox stuck up in the sky, swathed in more white, either cloud or blowing snow.

Neighbors tell me to get out the Hummingbird feeders because those delicate creatures will arrive within 10 days. The Juncos and Carolina Chickadees have already powered through a five-pound bag of bird seed and are hopping through tiny drifts of snow on the porch this morning, leaving tracks like brave explorers as they peck for the leavings they bypassed earlier, when the feeder was brimming full.

Two turkeys spent the night perched in limbs at eye-level off the bedroom deck, not 50 feet away from where I kept the electric blanket on all night. Now they’re poking in the snow around tufts of spring grass turkeylining the driveway, angling for a handout from the sack of seed corn stuck in an igloo cooler in the pantry.

One is a big tom with an impressive black beard who keeps ruffling his feathers and spreading his fan tail like he’s posing, ill-advised, for a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving scene. Maybe he knows it’s April and he’s safe from the locals.

An impossibly fat charcoal-gray male Junco, a feather ball on two sticks for legs, just perched on a shank of firewood sticking out from the pile by the chimney, seeming to stare directly at me in a beseeching request that I refill the feeder. Sitting by the fire with a good book seems more appealing, but it’s hard to resist a minor chore that will be greeted with universal approval.

Mike Williams

Mike Williams

With roots in Mississippi and Alabama, Mike Williams worked for newspapers across the South for 27 years. After earning a degree in American Studies at Amherst College, he worked for Alabama newspapers in Baldwin County, Montgomery and Birmingham, followed by stints at the Miami Herald and The Atlanta Constitution. His last job was as a foreign correspondent for the Cox Newspaper chain. He now splits his time between Florida and the North Carolina mountains. His interests include race relations, history, Southern folk culture and the environment.

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