Marking the Beginning of the Season
We’re a bit fatalistic about the weather in these parts. Maybe it’s the long, cold winters that seem to never end or maybe it’s because when weather systems move in they can linger in the mountains for weeks. Whatever the reason, we can never totally enjoy the sunshine because in the back of our minds is always the thought that the next weather system is lurking in the shadows.
Spring arrives here about mid April and the last plants end their bloom sometime towards the end of September. The growing season is short. Since taking up residence here in the country, I have been chronicling the march of the seasons by watching for the roadside flowers that are in bloom at any given time. And the very first plant to bloom is coltsfoot. It is a small dandelion like flower with a scaly stem. They can be seen growing on the gravel at the side of the roads or peeking out from under dead plant material. The hoof shaped leaves appear at the end of the flowering cycle, hence the name coltsfoot.
It is a welcome sight to these winter weary eyes and a sign that the season is just beginning. In the past it would not only have been a seasonal marker, but would have also been harvested as a cure for pleurisy, asthma and coughs. The Greeks and Romans had the best idea. They treated asthma by burning coltsfoot on charcoal fires and inhaling the smoke through reeds, alternating puffs with sips of wine. My kind of a cure!
If I had a sun dial for the seasons, coltsfoot would be found at number 1. It marks the beginning and holds the promise of all the other plants to follow. On this grey day in April, that promise is enough for me.