, Newburyport, MA

March 29, 2013

Nature rolls out welcome mat for spring

Bill Plante's North Shore
Newburyport Daily News

---- — Well, finally, here we are with weather predictions in the high 30s and mid-40s, snowflakes or not.

I marked the change in spring’s struggle with winter by giving up my long johns until next November, a practice I have followed since the Battle of the Bulge left me with consuming appreciation for their warming embrace of my nether parts.

Doubters as to winter’s departure must have been as housebound as I had felt, week after week.

The weekend had been promising, and by Tuesday small, puffy clouds floating in an azure sky beckoned.

I spent the better part of an hour and a half midday to cover a roundabout walk of two and a half miles of Hay Street, stopping wherever stopping appeared promising.

There is walking for walking’s sake, and then, there is walking for discovery’s sake. Usually I keep one eye for my watch during heartbeat checks and the other on whatever I note in passing.

Mothers with baby carriages walking in the same direction as I pass me regularly.

Mothers walking toward me really cannot pass until I have had done with the sharing of the joys of parenthood from what still beats in a well-aged heart.

Nature designed springtime for rejuvenation in all its manifestations, and whatever rules there are in the wild, caution and family planning are not among them.

Breeding seasons are brief, and competition can give rise to turbulence of a high degree, as it was for three male ducks contesting with one another in heady pursuit of a single female that apparently wanted no part of any of them.

We are well into the breeding season — no better proof of that being the presence of a family of otters with babe clinging to its mother’s back and father, brawny and protective, following.

A lot of that takes place at Quill’s Pond because it is as healthy as ponds might be when water flows through it, responding to the vagaries of seasonal changes as it has for centuries. It has been cared for with respect for nature’s role by the hands of its owner, Simone Dur, and her husband, Urs (too soon gone), and its neighbors, Alberta Nutile and Arlene Yeomans.

How sad, I thought, that the natural small ponds we knew in Newburyport have long gone, and the Frog Pond of Barlet Mall is devoid of wildlife.

Would that it had natural inlets and outlets. Neither has had recent care that would have protected the life that was once in it. Save for occasional visitors seeking handouts there isn’t any because its chemistry has grown foul.

The Mall is my first choice for walking in Newburyport. It has long been because once, a very long time ago, I ran it with my fellow track team members. It was our only out-of-doors resource when the high school was across the street.

Well, I thought as I turned for home, that’s going to change. There’s a substantial move for the better afoot and the Mall pond will live again because those who are seeing to it are fully committed.

We won’t ever see an otter family there, but when we hear the frogs again, that will do because everything that needs doing will have been done.


Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His email address is