Guest Column: Driftless Grace—Familiar rhythms return to the Valley

Grace Vosen, Contributor

It feels like I just made the switch to a 2021 calendar, and suddenly I’m turning the page from April to May.

For me, the April that just ended couldn’t have been more different than last year’s. I had much more of a social life and went to many more events (it’s not hard to be more than zero). Although we’re not out of the woods, it was the closest yet to anything resembling normal around here. The lessening of worries is almost tangible.

Photo via Grace Vosen

As the season turns, we in the Driftless are sharing in the rhythms of spring. Growing up here in the Midwest, I learned the old adage that corn should be planted when the oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear. I haven’t looked at enough squirrel ears to say if that still holds true. But I do know that the pasqueflowers are almost done blooming. Violets have taken over Spring Green Preserve, and some (not all) of the flowers I optimistically planted in April are making an appearance.

The sun has also been making itself scarce, as is common this time of year. April showers and all that. I don’t know a single person who didn’t go through a rough patch last month, and I believe the two phenomena are related. It helps to know that we’re all on this journey to summer together.

The last time all of this was going on, I was just getting used to the new reality of a global pandemic. I remember putting on my first mask about a year ago and staring in the mirror at my half-visible face. Now, COVID precautions are second nature to me. Masks are a part of my everyday life — and my overloaded coat rack.

Speaking of rhythms, I’ve been thinking back to that other April and realizing there was a strange stability to it all. Although no one knew how long the lockdowns would last, we basically knew what to do and not do. Our collective task was just to knuckle down and get through it. For those of us not employed as essential workers (or at all), the special circumstances gave some relief from guilt about not getting enough done.

Now that things are closer (not quite close) to the way they were, the old timetables have asserted themselves again. And yet, not one person on Earth knows what’s going to happen next. That comforting dullness is gone.

Neither do I have the answers. But I vow to enjoy the things I’ve missed twice as much (and twice as safely) as I did before I missed them.

 <em>Grace Vosen</em>
Grace Vosen

Grace Vosen is a writer and conservation educator living in Spring Green. She blogs about both the human and nonhuman communities of our region at