Get outside or you’ll miss it.

I find it amazing how the seasons surprise me year after year.

Gratefully, I get to experience all four since I live in southeastern Pennsylvania. Spring, summer, winter and fall have appeared on schedule for my entire 41 years, but like Christmas morning for a child, each year seems to bring fresh presents. Some gifts I adore while others I’d prefer not to have. They are all familiar, yet when they arrive, it’s as if I’d never seen them before.

For instance, this past Saturday night was rather warm and the air was damp due to incoming heavy rains. That’s when I saw, circling around an outside light, three tiny gnats. The first of the season. I’ve been anxiously awaiting spring — its warm weather, fragrant air and bright feathers — but I forgot about the bugs. It wasn’t until they visited my porch that they even entered my mind. I had grown accustomed to life without them just as I have accepted hard, frozen ground … all in a matter of just three months.

When the yard is filled with snow, I can’t imagine what it must be like to mow the lawn. When I sit at my desk with a blanket wrapped around me, I can’t fathom the wish for a strong breeze. As much as I know what to expect after all these years, I still find myself unable to truly imagine anything other than the present conditions. And as is the case with the bugs, I forget. I find myself having to relearn the neighborhood bird songs each time the closed-up house is reopened again. All this, in my opinion, is what makes living in four seasons so interesting.

I recently learned that the monitoring of seasonal signs (such as the gnats’ appearance) is called phenology. Diane White Husic, professor of biology, at Moravian College was awarded a TogetherGreen fellowship which provided money for a community-focused, environmental project. As a result, she started the Eastern Pennsylvania Phenology blog wherein she is collecting data from folks who notice a seasonal change in their backyard. Besides being a great place to share your own observations with the scientists who want to know, it serves to remind us about some of the best (and worst) presents we get at nature’s four-times-a-year Christmas.

I have no doubt that the intensity of the gold finch‘s yellow color or the volume of the spring peeper‘s mating call will still surprise me in my 80th spring … or so I hope. I don’t want to miss any of it, though, so I must make it a point to get outside on a regular basis, no matter what the weather.

I posted this photo because when I look at it now in winter, so many details pop out as stark reminders of spring: 1.) the feeder is ready for hungry, dive-bombing hummingbirds, 2.) the chives in the herb garden are covered in purple blooms, 3.) the picnic table is uncovered and ready for outdoor dining, 4.) the lawn is not only green, it needs mowing (thanks Glenn), 5.) the oak tree has dropped its brown leaves and replaced them with green ones, 6.) the world looks lush, but some trees still have only buds, and 7.) although I can’t see them, the ground bees are busy setting up shop in the wildflower garden.