The excitement of spring

Emily Stone

Spring is a season of change. All around me, things are changing color, new structures are being built, and a fresh cacophony of sounds fills the air. And that’s just inside the Museum! April is our exhibit construction month. Staff and volunteers demolished (and recycled) our old exhibit in just a few hours. Now the saws are humming, the cordless drills are whining, the carpenters are joking, and the paintbrushes are swishing.
A rainbow of geometric shapes grew to cover our dark green walls. Display boxes of all sizes and shapes, with hidden shelves for video equipment and holes for buttons and cords, seemed to spring up right out of the floor. A flat board metamorphosed into a flying superhero sidekick under the skilled brush of a volunteer artist.
Outside, a similar transformation is taking place. Bright sunshine and warm winds deconstruct winter’s snowdrifts. Eagles and osprey return as the rivers and lakes open up, and they gather sticks to refurbish old nests and construct new ones. Spiders are coming out of hiding to weave their webs, and some insects, suspended in a juvenile form all winter, will soon start metamorphosing into adults.
One color change I’ve noticed is the browning of hemlock needles in my yard. I’ve also noticed discolored evergreen trees along highways. Those I know are from salt spray off the roads. Passing cars splashed up salty water all winter. The evergreen needles absorbed some of the salty liquid. Once enough salt accumulated, it became toxic, and the needles died back from the tips.
I was a little more surprised at the trees in my yard turning brown, since they are not near any road. Serendipitously, a few days after I noticed my browning hemlocks, the Minnesota DNR published an explanation: strong, dry winds, many days of bright sunshine, and low relative humidity all contribute to the needles drying out so much that they die. It is possible I only noticed the damage recently because we’ve only had extended periods of strong sunshine recently.
Happily, the buds protecting new growth on trees are extremely tough, and tend not to experience winterkill. Even on the trees damaged by toxic road salt, new shoots will develop after spring rains wash the salt away.
So goes spring at the Museum, too!
Soon we will forget our winter-dried skin, our season with little color, our spirits that withered during the last (last!?) blizzard. Just about the time that frogs start peeping from the wetlands and warblers start chatting in the woods, first graders will start peeping in the classroom and visitors will be chatting in the exhibit. Come share the excitement of spring with us and our new exhibit—Nature’s Superheroes: Adventures with Adaptations—that opens May 1st!

For over 45 years, the Cable Natural History Museum has served to connect you to the Northwoods. Come visit us in Cable, WI, at 13470 County Highway M. The current exhibit, “Deer Camp: A Natural and Cultural History of White-tailed Deer,” opened in May 2013 and will remain open until April 2014.

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