John Bates is the author of seven books and a contributor to seven others, all of which focus on the natural history of the Northwoods. He’s worked as a naturalist in Wisconsin’s Northwoods for 22 years, leading an array of trips all designed to help people further understand the remarkable diversity and beauty of nature, and our place within it. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Wisconsin Nature Conservancy and the Wisconsin Humanities Council. John won the 2006 Ellis/Henderson Outdoor Writing Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers for his book Graced by the Seasons: Spring and Summer in the Northwoods. John and his wife Mary live on the Manitowish River in Iron County where they raised two daughters
Late April when the sun’s rays suddenly warm,
the snowmelt comes fast
and then we’re awash in water,
the little streams gorged,
spilling over banks, into the woods, the wetlands,
a spring tsunami of water pulsing everywhere.
The air saturates, too.
Fogs drip every morning,
so damp it’s like wearing a wet rag all day.
Then the frost goes out of the ground
and it’s mud season
when everything slurries.
Now little rivulets cascade everywhere through the hills
rushing on to Lake Superior,
water spilling everywhere,
everything running down, down,
all different sounds as the water
rumbles over rocks
and is a softness through the leaves.
Forest, lake, river all meet
mingling the mud and leaves and branches and stones
all in one pulse
that will last into mid-May when
the warblers and the wildflowers will announce a halt
to the trains of water,
and everything will settle in its new place
ready for the green-up,
of sun, soil, and water