I was driving along the Susquehanna when I noticed one of the surest signs of spring, a big Red Tractor pulling a five-bottom plow across one of the fields which lay along the floodplain. Because I enjoy watching such things I stopped the truck, grabbed the camera, and stood along the road. As I watched, it occurred to me that I come by such behavior honestly for I remember that my Dad used to enjoy spending an afternoon at the airport to experience the simple pleasure of watching planes come and go. I don’t know why I enjoy watching as a tractor hauls a plow, a harrow, a cultipacker, a haybine, a rake, or a baler back-and-forth, but I do. What has always impressed me most about spring plowing is how dark, rich, and fertile the soil looks when it is freshly-cultivated and turned upside-down towards the sun. I ran along the road to get myself in position to compose and capture an image which would include the tractor, the implement, and the widening expanse of black earth. That image has now become just another in the lengthening queue which is my WordPress media library. The image must wait, for it has been displaced by others in a series, captured yesterday, which highlight yet another of the surest signs of spring … the Magnolia. Joanna has observed that, just as they are beautiful, the blooms of these trees appear to be especially vulnerable to vagaries of the weather of early spring, especially the cold, wind, and rain … in combination. These trees flower profusely with the drama and color that you would expect of a botanical Prima donna. Given that the weather promised to deteriorate toward the end of the week I grabbed my camera and struck out to spend some time with these beauties. The images show a pair of blooms, the brilliant flush of color at the base of the petals, and the reproductive structures found deep within the protective whorl. Joanna tells me that the architecture of the flower parts indicates that the Magnolia is primitive. She says that ancient Angiosperms, such as this, have multiple pistils (female parts, in the center here) and multiple stamens (male parts, at the periphery) arranged in concentric whorls. More recent forms are characterized by a fusion of parts such that there are fewer of each in any particular plant. Besides their botanical interest, these trees are simply a wonder to behold. Beautiful, delicate, and ephemeral. There is rain forecast for tomorrow afternoon and into the night. I would guess that the tree below will look a bit worse-for-wear when it is over. I am glad to have had the chance to observe this beauty at the height of its splendor. Click any of the gallery images below for a larger view.