The grip of the COVID-19 pandemic on Minnesotans softens at times through the lens of the natural world. People in the outdoors have their attention elsewhere — and good thing, because spring’s awakening is in full bloom. We put out a question this week: What’s happening in the outdoors where you are? Here are some responses, edited for length and clarity. Expect more next week.

Mankato: Even though it is a little drier than it has been the last few years, I’m observing the popping of spring wildflowers bringing a little color to what usually looks like a dull landscape of mostly browns and grays. At Minneopa State Park we’re seeing the emergence of flowers such as snow trillium, Dutchman’s breeches, white trout lily, bloodroot and wild ginger. I think everyone this spring is seeking out any sign of rebirth. -Scott Kudelka


– Matt Davis


– Karla Bloem


May Township (Washington County): Nothing on the farm says same old, same old spring in the face of an unprecedented difference like ...

… My beloved Lab’s unwillingness to have his ears checked for the first wood ticks of spring.

… The inaugural pair of wood ducks, in their unmistakable flight profile, delighting in suddenly open water.

… Red-winged blackbirds flying through snow squalls to reach the homey comfort of their favorite cattail swamp.

… Leopard, spring peeper and chorus frogs waking each other up with their persistent breeding calls.

… My rock hound neighbor walking the plowing for any newly frost-heaved agates. — Bill Klein

Grand Marais: The rivers and creeks are just popping through on the North Shore, finally free from ice and with enough water to bust the seams into Lake Superior. A few local anglers are taking to the frigid and frothy waters, weary evermore of those who approach. It’s not just protecting the honey hole that has them on edge. It’s the uncertainty of damn near everything. — Joe Friedrichs