In southern New Hampshire, on the border with Massachusetts, it snowed fitfully all day today (Saturday, May 9), with the wind blasting from the north. Temperatures were hard pressed to top forty. (4.4° Celsius). The sun, as high as it is in August, kept blazing out between hurtling clouds, and the snow never really stuck, though all the tree branches were white, first thing in the morning.
One does not think of plants as being “warm blooded”, but they do put out heat. Perhaps the best example is skunk cabbage, which can melt its way up through ice in March the way a dandelion pushes up through asphalt. Though other plants do not put out as much heat, I don’t imagine early-budding northern trees have so much sugar in their sap without reason. (Sweetest is sugar maple, but swamp maple also can be tapped, and I’ve heard of people experimentally tapping birches and cherries and managing to boil down a syrup, although it apparently isn’t as tasty as maple. Oak, on the other hand, is not so sweet, but waits a fortnight longer than maples, before budding.) (The old-timers advised, “Don’t plant your corn until the oak leaves are as big as a squirrel’s ear”).
Once it’s May, it is likely the trees “know” they can’t delay any longer, and in a sense they wage war on cold winds. Despite our miserable Saturday the maples slowly unfurled leaves and the lilacs cautiously expanded the buds for their blooms. The world grew greener despite the bitter winds.
Tonight the war will be fierce. Temperatures are forecast to dip below freezing, in which case a lot of tender shoots and leaves will be blackened. But the plants will battle to make the computer models wrong. I would not at all be surprised to see temperatures touch freezing, but not dip below.
People, on the other hand, are not as tough as plants. The sodden day and bitter gales seemed to make people even more crabby than all the nonsense about the corona virus had them, to begin with.
Fortunately, in the afternoon, the weather became so absurd people’s sense of humor started to kick in. This stuff called “graupel” started to fall. It is a sort of soft hail which occurs when super-cooled water forms rime around a snowflake. In actual fact it is like being bombarded by pompoms out of a Dr. Seuss book. It was so ridiculous that it was hard to remain grouchy.
In any case, I didn’t get my garden planted, but the good thing is no one wanted to argue with me that Global Warming is happening. (Also I wrote a good grumpy sonnet.)
Well, now it is Sunday morning, and it appears the plants won. Despite all the freeze warnings, all the way to the coast, it seems temperatures stayed just above freezing even in the cold light of dawn.
This is not to say that there wasn’t a touch of frost down in hollows tucked out of the wind, but if you examine the plants there you will notice they are the sort that can take frost. Many (such as brambles) even undergo a fascinating process where leaves turn purple and only become green when the weather warms. Up higher the plants won the war.
Some may debate there was no freeze because the wind never died. I can attest to that, for some of that wind blew under my bathrobe when I went out to examine the leaves before dawn.
There was no sign of white frost or a blast’s blackening. Therefore I assert the tree tops had an effect. After all, though the winds had origins far to the north where there is still snow, the wind had to pass through miles of tree tops, all burning sugar to unfurl leaves.
This got me wondering if it can be said that trees “know.” Obviously they lack brains, but they do respond to diverse situations and are alive. Besides being effected by their environment they effect their environment, which is why we go sit under one on a hot summer’s day. Besides being beaten down they to some degree fight back.
It seems to me that this battling is largely unconscious, but still it seems a form of consciousness. This explains something. It explains why a silly old man is out talking to trees in his bathrobe at the crack of dawn.
Another thought occurred to me, before another breeze under my bathrobe sent me hurrying back inside. It was this: Though trees may be largely unconscious, they were created by a Creator who is omniscient. Therefore there is something all-knowing about mere vegetables.
That seems a good thought for a Sunday, and also a handy thought to have on hand, next time some rude person says you have the brains of a cabbage. They actually are saying you are all-knowing, infinitely knowing, the knower of the past, present and future, and are knowledge itself (albeit unconsciously.)