Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the January 7, 2008 issued from Yerba Buena Clinic just outside Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacan, Chiapas, MÉXICO
about 1740 meters in elevation, ± LAT. 17° 11' 27"N, LONG. -92° 53' 35"W

A Northerner with firm ideas about each of the four seasons will find the current season here confusing. For example, passing by a little woodland pool below my dwelling, you'll see red, yellow, orange and brown autumn leaves floating atop inky water, as shown below.

fall leaves in water

Those are mostly Sweetgum, Blackgum and Poison Ivy leaves and leaflets, exactly as you might see in an eastern North American forest in September or October. The forest floor as well is littered with dry, crunchy, autumny leaves. Especially this week as Coldwave #18 blew over the ridge bringing frost to Chiapas's higher elevations it smelled, felt and often looked like a northern fall with winter in the makings.

But, some of the oaks who have lost nearly all their leaves are issuing catkins of male flowers, and our pines are absolutely flooding the area with pollen, exactly as if it were spring. If you want a really springy feeling, just look at the peach blossoms below:

peach blossoms

Actually, peach trees have been blossoming sporadically for the last couple of months, but they're reaching a flowering peak right now. How pretty is a leafless peach tree in full bloom, with the blue sky behind pink blossoms emerging from gnarly, black limbs. In the forest, several trees are lustily issuing shoots from recently burst buds just as if it's been decided that the last killing frost had passed, though that kind of thinking doesn't work here.

Then atop all that, there are still plenty of summery things around, such as the 2½-inch broad morning-glory flower shown below, glowing so warmly beneath the blue sky.

Ipomoea flower

So, which of the four seasons is it? Of course this is a wrong-headed question from the beginning. Our season is simply our season, expressing itself in its own perfectly correct manner. If the forest seems to ask which season it is, it's nothing less than the Zen master inquiring about the sound of one hand clapping.

Moreover, as with Zen, the wisdom of the season lies less in any right answer than in the recognition that we ourselves can expand beyond the usual manner of thinking and feeling.