Celebrate the Pleasures of February with Osoberry Ecology at Home
February 16, 2022
Oemleria cerasiformis – Plant of the Month
In bleakest February
a vigor entered my life,
no, it was a cucumber.
The scene is fogged,
speared by low-angled light
igniting small flames of vegetal green.
A zig right and up,
strength to propel
lawn, parking lot, roadway.
Into Doug fir and sword fern,
Pacific waterleaf ground
bright as a baby’s laugh,
mid-story laced with Osoberry—a celebration.
The northwest flank of the butte,
my neck of the woods,
freshens in February,
the color of all that is new,
in the middle of Winter.
By the quickening impulse of Imbolc,
petal and leaf.
Earlier, driving down Willamette street, the voice on the radio said that most Americans claim listening to a favorite song as one of their most treasured simple pleasures.
Other popular joys:
feeling the sun on your face,
spotting a species of bird you’ve never seen before,
seeing flowers and trees in bloom.
And also the joy of:
learning a new word,
just the right word to contain a moment,
a feeling, an ephemeral energy.
Climacteric, learned this morning, means:
a critical stage, period, or year.
I kept thinking it had something to do with climate
with climate change
but yes, it is that
in reference to the microcosm of one life.
(As if one life can be lived in isolation,
outside of interconnections.)
Your human life,
the poet Rita Dove’s life
undergoing climate change.
Starting with Imbolc / Groundhog’s Day,
the mid-way point between
winter solstice and spring equinox,
a critical point in the life of wild woods,
the life of inhabited gardens,
a period of first awakenings,
simple pleasures held close
to bare branch,
to muddy ground—
swelling tree buds,
small early crocus and sweet violets.
Osoberry stands slender-twigged,
a transparent understory of verticals
lit with wings of vibrant green.
The first native shrub to leaf
it marks a shift.
The edge of winter
tilting decisively towards spring.
Osoberry carries a green torch,
the opening ceremony for the climacteric events:
emergence, growth, new life.
When Osoberry drops leaves in August,
don’t fret and proclaim it a sign of climate doom.
Know Osoberry too
needs a rest.
Six months of greening the shade
Early to leaf, early to drop.
So it is every year.
But last year,
I looked closer,
something else was going on
beyond senescent leaf drop.
Mottled and speckled with droppings,
a profusion of Corythuca lace bugs
moved in for a feast.
A native insect.
One that belongs,
part of the ecology,
not a pest.
Again, do not fret.
Not when life is happening, eating, feeding.
Rich ecologies are full of leaves eaten by insects,
insects eaten by spiders
and by birds.
Osoberry gives us many simple pleasures:
the color so fresh in earliest Spring,
the taste of young leaves reminiscent of cucumber,
the blooms followed by snackable fruits,
and then, the wonder of leaf-sucking insects.
See the glass mosaic wings.
Hear the birds sing, full-bellied.
Small, urban gardens
your home grounds,
are rich with niches
well-suited for the upright stature of Osoberry.
Dry shade is everywhere
in our built environments.
Fatsia and aucuba,
classics for such tough microclimates,
can be joined by a native.
Light up February with Osoberry.