Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sibley Marsh and Prairie

The ice has just started to open on the small pond in Sibley Marsh, and the spring peepers haven't yet begun to sing. Things were quiet in the marsh on a Sunday morning; the loudest sound was the call of a male cardinal going off like a car alarm in the top of a tree. Sibley Marsh is the best place in town to see red-winged blackbirds, but their spring migration hasn't reached us yet this year. I saw robins and juncos and cardinals this morning—all common overwintering birds. I also saw a couple of rabbits. In the late spring, the thickets of wild plum and sumac will provide excellent nesting sites for the red-winged blackbirds. But first, the males will arrive alone, and begin to call to attract their mates.

It wasn't until I passed St. Peter's Lutheran Church, across from Sibley Marsh, that I remembered that today is Palm Sunday. Although I have fond memories of waving palms and singing "All Glory, Laud and Honor" on childhood Palm Sundays, I now find it strange that here in these cold northern climes we mark the liturgical coming of spring with parades of tropical foliage. The Easter season is about death and rebirth. The Easter drama is all around us in the slow death of winter and the rebirth of spring. There are loud hosannas in the songs of birds. I feel more of God's presence in native prairie grass than I do in palm fronds from Guatemala. If I am to find God anywhere, I have to begin looking in the place where I live.

The first essay I ever published, in the May 1997 Cannon River Watershed Watcher, was about a walk to Sibley Marsh and Prairie with Will and Peter. Will would have been five-and-a-half; Peter would have been almost three. The essay is reprinted here.

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