Well, I am totally gutted. I was convinced I'd have a Snow Photo for January's roundup. The whole of the USA is buried in snowdrifts, as far as I can tell from the news. Northern Ireland is freezing to death and has had all the water cut off. Scotland is impassable ... even more so than usual. Twenty minutes due west of where I sit, in the same goddamn county, they are having Snow Days off school and happy snowball fights. What have I got? Nothing. Not a flake.
Well, there's some ice on the ponds:
|Note the glorious sunshine.|
I've even seen the odd bold hazel catkin, which aren't supposed to be out for another month.
|These are male catkins - "lambs' tails"|
Which is why of course they are contrasted with holly berries in the carol The Holly and the Ivy. While certainly this song has a strong Christian message (the holly's features are all tied symbolically to the Passion of Christ), it also carries an older (and deeply misogynist) theme - holly is considered 'masculine' and superior in every way, whilst ivy is 'feminine' and basically crap. Even birds won't eat her poisonous berries, it's claimed, except owls (which are Creatures of the Night).
Here's another suspiciously feminine feature that's much more noticeable in the depths of winter: the Witches' Brooms you find on some trees:
- Holly and his merry men, they dance and they sing,
- Ivy and her maidens, they weep and they wring.
- Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
- Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.
|Argh! Proof that witches have been flying overhead!|
These balls of twiggy growth are the plant's reaction to stress (viruses, fungi, parasites etc) and are actually harmless to the tree, as well as providing miniature habitat for a lot of beasties.
One plant you will see still in glorious flower in January is the gorse:
There's a folk saying that "When gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season" - i.e. Never!
And the other January flower is of course the wonderful, magical snowdrop. As soon as last year's plants die off and everything looks dead, new snowdrop shoots spring from the cold earth. The Wheel of the Year never stops turning...
Which brings me, in my phenology log, full circle :-)