Making Heat and Harvesting Cold: If You Don’t Like the Season, Change it

Let’s revisit an image from a few days back, in which I showed how heat and cold met in a deer trail and a red medicine willow, not to mention a tangle of choke cherries and mock orange. Today, I’d like to show how broadly this principle casts itself across the grassland.

There are, for example, the thatched grasses, that use old stalks pressed down by snow (cold) to catch heat and hold it, so they can get an early protected start.

In contrast, curly dock uses red pigments to capture warmer rays of the sun and move the season ahead a couple weeks.  You can just see some thatching grasses doing the same, in the upper right, although with less pigmentation.

A feral cherry, though, grows only in one place on the mountain: in a bend of the trail, where a bear or a porcupine (or perhaps a human) left it a couple decades ago (before this trail): where its shade, and that of its choke cherry sisters, intersect a bear trail and cast a cooling shadow. The shadow stores snow, which means it stores water, ensuring enough to get it through the drought that is coming.

Hot and cold are not givens in the landscape, even for successful interlopers and settlers like these. Well, not the medicine willow. She has been here as long as people have been, or bears.

Tomorrow, let’s have a look at how humans can change the seasons as well. We need a bit of that. Or a lot.

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