Once the moon has settled low, and the pines filter its light, shadow absorbs all but fragments of the world. Then, bright patches decorate walls and pavements and lawns. A bit of tree trunk shines for a while, then is concealed. Hedge leaves glitter for a moment, then return to the general darkness. The landscape flickers in slow motion. The pine silhouettes in the west vibrate as wind shakes the needles. All the while, the frogs sing. The stars brighten as the moon sets, and then fade again as clouds begin to form. From the darkness comes the smell of skunk. It grows stronger, displacing the scent of wood and grass and decayed leaves, until all the air seems nothing more than skunk perfume. It lingers a while, then fades. The clouds withdraw, but the stars are already dim, and soon there is only bright Jupiter, hanging in the deep blue east. The ridge-line separates from the waking sky, and the shadow becomes forest and field and town once again. The skunk scent is gone. I never saw the skunk.
The first bees of the year buzz around a plant by the front door. Small, white, faintly sweet blossoms have appeared among its waxy green leaves. The shrub next to it now sports little purple berries. The afternoon sun has found the gap between pines and is illuminating the winter dust and cobwebs which have accumulated on the outside of my windowpane. I think I did catch the elusive scent of spurge laurel, but I can't be sure. It won't be long before I see puffs of pollen drifting like tiny clouds on the ever milder afternoon breezes. This being only the end of February's first week, this could be a false spring, but I have the feeling it isn't. The birds flying north appear to agree with my conclusions. Spring will be a little early this year.