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My New Favorite Season: Spring Near Yellowstone

It’s been a long time since I have visited Paradise Valley and Yellowstone Park in springtime. Starting when my sons were little, we camped in Yellowstone but usually after school was out for the summer, or in the fall. I’d always heard about the incredible spring surge of baby wild mammals and birds there, but I’d never experienced that awesomeness until this retreat. Fall was always my favorite Montana season. I’ve changed my mind, though. My new favorite season? Spring-near-Yellowstone. Yes. That is a season. Springtime-near-Yellowstone. Not just plain old Spring.

Hearing robins singing has always been my first sign of Spring.

River with Birch Leaf

We’ve tried to arrange for our shamanic study group to meet in Montana, our home-ground, for almost 20 years. Well, they came this spring! Yay!  And I kinda think everybody pretty much fell in love with Montana’s beauty and wildness. Yellowstone Park, the Yellowstone River and Paradise Valley to be specific.

It’s been a long time since I have visited Paradise Valley and Yellowstone Park in springtime. Starting when my sons were little, we camped in Yellowstone but usually after school was out for the summer, or in the fall. I’d always heard about the incredible spring surge of baby wild mammals and birds there, but I’d never experienced that awesomeness until this retreat. Fall was always my favorite Montana season. I’ve changed my mind, though.

My new favorite season? Spring-near-Yellowstone. Yes. That is a season. Springtime-near-Yellowstone. Not just plain old Spring.

In early May, Mother Earth is waking up in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Waking up in a big way:

  • Her trees sure woke up — fast! In just a couple of days, before our eyes, the aspens and cottonwoods dressed their bare branches in mists of green, then fully clothed themselves in designer-leaf-garments.

Spring Aspen by Matt Lavin

As spring days grow warmer, Earth’s sacred waters awaken. Snow melts. Soft rains come. Rivers swell and fill their banks. The water covers sand bars, willow thickets and ancient boulders. Listen to the sound of a small stream feeding a big river and notice the beauty filling your heart:

Afternoon River Reflections

During the night the land sleeps. Mists cover the bottom of Emigrant Peak in the Absaroka range. With sunrise, the clouds lift to reveal a snowy shawl on the mountain’s shoulders and, as the day warms, her shawl unravels into rivulets that feed the swollen river. Earth’s sacred waters take many forms.

EmigrantPeakBrownBirdStudio1-imp

Mother Earth is waking up with babies. Every kind of wild-fertile-life-explosion-of-exuberance baby: bison calves, wolf cubs, fox kits, fawns, elk calves, gopher kits. Eaglets, goslings, osprey chicks and kildeer chiclets. A hatch of mayflies and a hatch of trout fry, bunnies, ducklings, loonlets and grebelets.

Elk Cow and Calf

Birds mate, nest and raise a brood. Or they just pass through, feeding all around us – energy for the journey.

  • A grebe mother floats by with a brood of grebelets on her back. Two of them are just behind, tucked up against her tail as close as they can be, in the wild, rising waters.
  • Yellow-headed blackbirds sing their water-in-the-throat-joy
  • Dusk brings the chortling call of sandhill cranes, their color that of deer, goose and fallow field
  • Canada geese stand on a snag midstream, high water all around them, calling their distress in not-quite-unison
  • White pelicans glide downriver — a silent line on invisible rolling air-hills
  • Mama eagle brings home a snake, then a rabbit, a duck, a fish — she’s a good provider
  • Nuthatch, woodpecker, chickadee, siskin, finch —  the timbre of bird-song in a meadow swells to a symphony of beats, noise and vibrant texture
  • The cottonwood grove where we met around a fire, is alive with aspen-catkin-fluff dancing in the air to the rhythm of bird-song
  • Above our heads, baby gracklets (made-up-word-warning) strain their wobbly necks from a hole high in an old snag. Their begging calls must fill the parent birds with urgency — bring more bugs! Bring more bugs!
  • A red tailed hawk screams hoarsely from across the flooding river — an osprey answers at dusk

YellowHeaded Blackbird

Our Earth is sacred. There are some places on Earth I can more easily feel and experience that sacredness. The Yellowstone ecosystem is one of those places for me. It is holy ground.

Just for fun, I found some recordings of some of the birds we saw and heard during our retreat. Listen here:

Sandhill Crane

Pine Siskin

Osprey on Nest

Mountain Bluebird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

NOTES:

CREDITS:

  • The River ©Eddie McHugh
  • Recording of American Robin from Slater Museum
  • Aspen Catkins photo ©Matt Lavin
  • River Reflection ©Maureen Shaughnessy (me)
  • Snow Clouds Cloak Emigrant Peak ©Maureen Shaughnessy
  • Elk Cow and Calf ©Maureen Shaughnessy
  • Yellow-Headed Blackbird ©Michelle Lamberson
  • Bird Calls are from Xeno-Canto.org
  • Recording of Pole Creek is by Maureen Shaughnessy

6 replies on “My New Favorite Season: Spring Near Yellowstone”

Thank you, Charity … aren’t those sound clips cool? I think I’ll start using them in my posts once in awhile — where they fit. Wouldn’t it be cool to have some sound clips of cooking/kitchen/food preparation in your blog occasionally? 😀

Maureen-
The sound of the sandhill cranes took right back to our retreat. Thank you for putting this together.
I loved your descriptions, photos, sounds, heartfelt reflections. It will help me for a long time to come, remember how important it is to take time, honor Mother Earth and all her and our family.
Thanks also to you and Tim for organizing it ! And now, to you for the memories.

Aleana, it was so so so good to spend that time with you and everyone else. As I said on the last day we were there, my heart was really full because everyone came to experience what we have been trying to describe with just words (and photos) for years. Thank you for writing a comment. I love knowing that you enjoyed the sounds, visuals and my thoughts. <3

You have really captured the essence of springtime in Montana. Thank you for taking the time to put this together.

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