Spring has arrived ... But here in the high country of Colorado, at 9'000' above sea level, you have to look closely to see the signs.
The obvious ones, the new green growth pushing up through the ground and the tops of tulips and crocus peeking through the damp earth are hidden beneath the snow as it slowly melts under the sun's strengthening rays.It is March 1, winter's snow is still heavy and deep upon the land and for most here spring seems remote. But look closely. Way up there, at the very top of the majestic cottonwood trees, on the tips of slender Aspens, and down here on the long arms of the willow and you'll see them – the tips of the branches are become flush with color and the buds on the branches are swelling, filling with life giving sap rising from deep within the warming earth. Preparing to unfurl in a heartbeat becoming leaf, catkin, and flower bud, filling the world with green.Tiny pussy willows are starting to burst, if you care to notice. And those things dangling from the branches of the Alders on this cold morning - those are catkins, already out! Soon the Aspens will be in full “flower” - a subtle affair lacking in the colorful excitement of a true flower, the Aspen catkins dress the canopy formed by the branches with a silvery fluff, creating a shimmering, glowing aura brought to life by the rays of the setting sun. Often going unnoticed by the casual passerby, I believe it to be one a most beautiful sights, something I look forward to every spring.One day the Cottonwood catkins will crack open and the deep earthy red “flower” catkin emerges, growing longer and longer until finally exploding into masses of fluffy “cotton” - the covering of the seed of this prodigious tree which takes to the wind with hopes of landing on a nice muddy bank near the river where it can lay down roots for the next generation.
Once a die hard winter sports enthusiastic, I now long for the first forays of spring, for the solitude I have discovered collecting the fat, resinous sap filled buds of the Cottonwood Tree and the dangling catkin of the Alder on cold mornings, while my skis begin to collect dust in my ski locker. And so off I go with Pippin. my four legged companion, wandering across the frozen landscape in the first part of the day, before the sun can soften the snow and travel is easy.Old growth cottonwood trees tower along the groomed Nordic trails and branches felled in recent wind storms which are tossed onto the snow banks by trail crews, providing me with a large harvest of fat buds from the canopy crowns.
The Nordic ski trails are practically deserted, the silence broken only by the melodic chortling of a flock of red wing black birds who have perched at the top of the canopy to serenade me while I work. I pluck the buds from branches felled during recent windstorms. Spring brings the wind, and the wind brings down the top branches where the choicest buds reside, and the ones most impossible to reach. I will stay out as long as I can traverse the snow without sinking to my knees, and while the sticky resin is still frozen and hard from the cold night.As the sun warms the buds the resin begins to coat my fingers and hands. Popping the buds off the branches becomes difficult. I linger in the grove as long as I can, enjoying this sun drenched morning while Pippin plays in the snow, chewy on the bare branches. I find this activity a deeply meditative experience and my mind wanders, daydreaming of summer. I can picture the wind blowing through the leaves of the canopy, mixing sunlight and shadow across the shaded riverbanks. I “talk” to the trees, asking for their blessing of cool shade on hot afternoons, and praying for deep soaking rains which might bring morels springing to life among the grass at their feet. I also thank them for their powerful medicine.
Eventually the warm sun softens the snow too much and I find I'm sinking deeper and deeper with each step. So I collect as many branches as I can carry and return to my bicycle. I strap the branches to my baskets and start for home where I'll pluck the last buds and start the process of extracting their goodness to include in my next creations.
In my post COTTONWOOD BUDS, WHITE WILLOW BARK, SALICIN AND SALICYLIC ACID learn about the healing power of naturally occurring Salicin found in these mountain trees,
Check out my newest (and quite possibly the first of it's kind) cleansing oil blend which I just made with my sticky basket of goodness! Cottonwood Bud infused oil.