Letter from Publisher
Red might be considered the “official” color of February, with images of red hearts, red roses and all of the visuals synonymous with Valentine’s Day. Select a magenta cyclamen, some red carnations or pink tulips, and the festive florals are ready. Or, like at my house, amaryllis bulbs that started sprouting in December are now blooming in shades of red and white from their containers on the dining room table.
In February, a male Northern Cardinal is the red visitor at the birdfeeder, brightening the gloomy winter as he seeks out sunflower morsels. Cardinals don’t migrate, nor do they change colors seasonally. Unlike the incognito winter-brown goldfinch, male cardinals remain brilliant red all year (females stay a muted pinkish-brown). Winter bird songs are few, and cardinal calls tend to be mostly a loud “chip chip”. By mid-February, though, cardinals are establishing spring territories and their songs change. I’m eagerly anticipating the first morning when I’ll hear a cardinal serenading the neighborhood with “birdie-birdie-birdie” and harkening the coming spring.
Despite the lingering winter cold and snow, a quick walk in your yard, local park or forest preserve is a great way to get fresh air and exercise while observing winter wildlife. In addition to the goldfinch and cardinals, juncos and other small birds are common. Look up to see a formation of geese, or perhaps even hear some sandhill cranes far above on a brilliant, sunny day. Hawks can be fairly common (often spotted on an expressway light pole) and great horned owls may be heard in some Chicagoland areas. On the ground, animals also leave evidence of their residence in our neighborhoods. Check out Sheryl DeVore’s article, “Wild Animals Leave Clues to their Presence,” in this issue for tips on identifying local animal tracks.
Red is symbolic of February recognitions of Heart Month (also called American Heart Month, Heart Health Month or similar). We’re focused this month on matters of the heart—the one that keeps us alive and healthy. In our lead story, “Sacred Vessels: The Lifeblood of Heart Health,” Julie Peterson looks at the crucial role of the vascular system and how simple, natural lifestyle choices can help prevent or remediate damage that otherwise could result in a heart attack, stroke, vision loss or cognitive decline. It’s never too early to start taking care of our hearts, and we offer tips on boosting cardio conditioning from an early age in our Healthy Kids department.
Seasonal reds can be found too, on February’s dinner plates. Check your indoor winter farmers’ market, coop or produce aisle for locally grown veggies like beets, beauty heart radishes, red-skinned potatoes, dried red beans, red leaf lettuce and more. Although not local, blood oranges, pink grapefruit and other colorful citrus are “in season”. Turn to our Conscious Eating department in print and on our website at NAChicago.com for tasty, nutritious recipes to try out.
Whether you’re eager to get outside every day or feeling a bit of winter cabin fever, our area has an abundance of events to help us on our ongoing paths of health and sustainability. Please be sure to refer regularly to our print and online calendars. If you’d like your events to be included, just go to our website and click on the calendar page.
As always, I encourage you to spend some time outside every day. It’s a great way to take a break, get a little exercise and reset your mood. Look for early signs of spring, take wonder in the sounds of wind in the trees, look for animal tracks in the snow or mud and reconnect with the vitality of the natural world around you.