May’s Flower Full Moon was the last of the three supermoons of 2020. I wanted to photograph the full moon rising over the Massanutten Mountain Range that runs through the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. However, my plans changed due to the weather. Spring has been unusually cloudy here this year. With a predicted clear sky on May 7, I was determined to capture shots of the full moon setting over the Allegheny Mountains that serve as the border between Virginia and West Virginia in Rockingham Co.
I had a clear view of the moon from Mole Hill, an ancient volcano, and noted area landmark west of Harrisonburg. Dawn’s early light highlighted Old Order Mennonite farms that dot the landscape all the way to the Allegheny foothills. The rusty silo, the brick farmhouse, the rolling, fertile fields, and the sweeping mountain slopes all take your eye right to the setting moon.
It was exactly five years ago today that I took this photo of our Amish neighbor planting corn in the late-April sunshine. Add in the faithful dog, and it’s an iconic spring scene in Ohio’s Amish country. A majority of the three to four million tourists who visit Holmes Co., Ohio, every year come for such nostalgic vistas as this. Horsedrawn plows and planters bring back fond memories for our most senior folks. It’s a way of life that is rapidly disappearing, even in the largest Amish population in the world. Today, fewer than 10 percent of Amish still farm.
“Spring in Ohio’s Amish Country” is my Photo of the Week.
It must be spring! Farmers in Virginia’s pastoral Shenandoah Valley are out and about preparing their fields for this year’s crops. In fact, farmers in Rockingham Co., Virginia, have already made their first cuttings of hay for silage to feed their livestock.
This farmer, riding his ubiquitous John Deere tractor, was heading back to the farm.
To stretch my legs and get some fresh air during our self-quarantine time, I took a short drive to a local park. I was the only one there. As I walked along the paved path, I found this female Mallard resting on a limestone boulder in a small stream near Dayton, Virginia. She looked pretty contented to me.
Eastern Bluebirds are some of my favorite birds. I love everything about them. Their colors are stunning, as this male perfectly models. Their songs are subdued, wishful, peaceful, and satisfying. They are docile, eat tons of insects and seeds, and are generally congenial to humans. Once on the decline, Eastern Bluebirds are making a comeback thanks in part to bluebird trails being established in appropriate habitat for them.
I took this photo five years ago in our Ohio backyard. This male was basking in the morning sunshine on a day late in March. Eastern Bluebirds made regular visits to my feeders year-round.
March is famous for its variable weather. After all, the familiar saying, “In like a lion, out like a lamb” references the month of March.
There’s a good reason for that. It’s easy to imagine our log cabin ancestors being more than ready for spring after enduring snowstorm after snowstorm. However, pioneer-era folklore was based more on hope than meteorological compilations.
They professed that if March began with yet more lion-like elements, then it had to end with gentler, calmer, warmer, more welcoming weather. Who could blame them?
It’s only natural to want more appealing weather than another cold spell. In animalizing weather, it’s much safer to deal with a lamb than a lion, especially if you were a 19th-century settler with a bad case of cabin fever.
Likely, there was more to it than that. Those hardy people believed in a balance of life. Aristotle’s “moderation in all things” was their mantra. So, they logically applied that theory to the weather as well. If March was harsh in the beginning, it should be mild by month’s end.
Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t work that way. We take what we get, and given what we have gotten in the past, March’s weather could be a doozy. A lot of factors come into play.
Welcome to March, 2013.
During the storm.
Building the snowman.
March’s normal weather, whatever normal is these days, has historically played hijinks with global societies. March is known to deliver every variety of weather in its 31 days, and not always where or when you might think.
My family has personal experience with March’s fickleness. Seven years ago, we traveled from Ohio to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to babysit our three grandkids, then ages eight, six, and three. Their parents went on a much-needed vacation to Florida.
Shortly after we arrived, a strong cold front moved through the eastern U.S. causing chaos. While Florida froze, the storm dumped a foot of heavy, wet snow on us. Babysitting was never so much fun as we frolicked in the winter wonderland. Sled riding, building snow forts, and snowmen filled much of our time.
When we returned home a week later to Holmes County, Ohio, the weather was dreamy. Under sunny skies, Amish farmers were plowing fields with horses. Now those seem like the good old days.
It’s easy to be nostalgic about March. I always thought of the third month as the bridge between winter and spring. Hoes and rakes replaced sleds and ice skates. The snow on the daffodils never lasted long.
It’s much harder to face the reality of the Marches of the 21st century. Now, severe storms are occurring more frequently and are much stronger than in previous times.
More than a hundred years of industrialization have drastically changed global climate patterns. Tropical areas that usually receive regular rains have been drought-stricken, resulting in catastrophic wildfires. Think Australia and California.
Globally, the last 10 years have produced nine of the warmest years on record. In fact, this January was the warmest ever. That could explain in part why many skiers, ice skaters, and ice fishermen far and wide had to feel abandoned by the nearly winterless winter weather.
That said, March will still be March. It just might be wilder than in olden years. Our forebearers rhymes may have had some wishful reasoning to them. The reality in the early 21st century may deliver more dramatic climatological results.
If we are fortunate, perhaps the meteorological lion and lamb will lie down together peaceably. That might bring spring weather of biblical proportions.
Home. It’s a four-letter word that conjures up both good and sad emotions. It all depends on one’s circumstances.
I was fortunate. Returning home has always been a rewarding, meaningful experience for me.
I have no recollection of living in my first home on a channel of a lake near Akron, Ohio. But I recall many stories told to me in my adolescent years. I still get chided for grinding up coal cinders from the driveway. Apparently, I thought they tasted good.
My earliest childhood recollection was when I was about four years old. My father handed me a cold Coca Cola while I sat overhead on a rafter of the house my folks were building.
I spent my formative years in the little red-brick bungalow in Canton, Ohio. Baby boomer families like ours filled that middle-class neighborhood. Pick up Whiffle ball, baseball, and football games were commonplace, along with hide and seek sessions that went long into warm summer evenings.
That modest home was always a welcome sight returning home from college. Though the house was sometimes filled with shouting and disagreements, I always felt safe there. It was my home and my family, after all.
All of that changed once I graduated and started teaching in Killbuck, Ohio. I met and married my wife, and we built our own home just out of town next to an old cemetery. My school principal built right next to us. I loved to tell people that at least we had good neighbors on one side of our home.
We spent 10 incredible years there. It’s where our daughter and son learned to walk, talk, and play. Oh, the stories I could tell of those good old days in that hardscrabble town. For now, it’s best to let them remain dormant.
After I became a principal in East Holmes Local Schools, we moved to near Berlin, Ohio. The house we bought was on an Amish farm, and all of our neighbors spoke Pennsylvania Dutch as their primary language. That wasn’t a hindrance at all.
Just like when I grew up, our daughter and son had plenty of children to play with. They often met at the giant old black oak tree across the road from us. It was a joy to be able to watch them interact and quickly solve any squabbles without an adult having to intervene.
We lived there for 38 years, longer than any other place, including our childhood homes. Our neighbors were friendly and helpful. Amazing sunrises and sunsets enhanced the already beautiful views that we enjoyed.
Despite our deep roots in the community, we decided it was time to be nearer to our three grandchildren, who were growing all too fast. We found a home only five miles away from them in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
We bought and remodeled a little ranch house amid nearly 500 other homes. Just like their owners, each one has a personality all its own. Instead of being in the heart of Ohio’s Amish country, we now live in the heart of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley.
We can watch our high school grandson strike out batters in a baseball game. We enjoy a middle school concert in which our other grandson plays the French horn. We watch and listen with pride as our granddaughter sings in a prestigious children’s choir.
In the words of Maya Angelo, “I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.”
Indeed, it’s good to be home, wherever that is. I hope that’s true for you as well.