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Using a local landmark to identify the seasons

By Jim Busek • Jun 26, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Here’s a skill I am refining: being able to tell what season it is by things I see or hear at Veterans Memorial Lake Park.

For instance, crushed mulberries are still staining the road into the reservoir. That only happens in June. And only along one segment of the park roadway.

Mulberry season segues into raspberry season with intrepid berry lovers wading into the fence rows to fill buckets with black raspberries before the birds get them. That will start to happen in the next couple of weeks.

Mid-summer is the season for Queen Anne’s Lace, an under-appreciated wildflower.

There have been boat trailers in the launch area parking lot since spring when the crappies were nesting. In fact, fishing is now an almost year-round activity at the reservoir, even when it is frozen solid.

The new rental canoes are now racked at the boat launch area. In the future, we will know we’re in the temperate seasons when the racks are full. Canoes and kayaks on the reservoir always look like such serene fun.

The overflow spillways have alternated between silent and roaring since spring this year.

Band concerts in the southeast shelter have started again, every Wednesday evening. The redwing blackbirds that nest in the cattails nearby don’t seem to mind.

The Canada geese have been messing all over everything for a few weeks now. And their gray babies are nearly adult-size now, old enough that their big parents have stopped hissing at me when I jog past.

Summer goes by fast. And it is almost always at the reservoir that autumn sneaks up on me. One September day I will be there in summer clothing when the clouds begin roiling dark gray and the chill wind portends the change of seasons.

If I keep jogging on those late autumn afternoons, I eventually get to the day when I can see a sunset and moonrise simultaneously.

The sumac will be blazing red by then, of course. Cross country runners will have been practicing and competing in the beautiful outdoor setting for several weeks. And steam will begin rising from the water in the morning sun after the first overnight chills. In October, chestnut hunters—often Asians who prize the nuts in their cuisine—will be bent over for several days in the grove at the middle of the park. And a couple of weeks later the whole place will be on fire with the oranges and reds of the maple trees sprinkled throughout.

Milkweed and other foliage that had been unnoticed will turn handsome brown for the winter, the most solitary time at the reservoir.

The wind coming across the thread of land that connects the wooden bridge to the oldest part of the park stings my face until I have to look away.

Some early winter mornings, there is a mysterious rumbling before the headlight of a Wheeling & Lake Erie freight train emerges from the darkness across the water.

Other days, when there is dead silence and it is really cold with the three lakes frozen solid, there is an eerie pinging and cracking of the ice.

That solid freeze will kill some fish. But the good news is that when those dead fish float to the surface after the thaw, they will attract some bald eagles. And once you have seen an eagle up close within the city limits of Norwalk you will never forget it.

But then you will likewise never forget the springtime sight of acres and acres of trillium blooming in the back quarter of our precious park.

A few weeks after that, the mulberries will begin staining pavement, and I will know it’s June again.

Okay, identifying the seasons by things you see at a park is not as exciting as, say, mind reading, but, as you can probably tell, for me it is a simple local pleasure.

 

Jim Busek is a free­lance writer who lives in Nor­walk. He can be reached via email at jim­busek@hot­mail.com.

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