- Spring now launches into a period of wild bursts of activity. Flowers suddenly blossom, hang around for a while hopefully awaiting early insects, then fade and vanish. Overnight any tree can transform from bare brown to nearly full green. A brilliant afternoon can suddenly turn viciously grey cold and rainy, or vice versa. People learn to dress for anything and to expect the unexpected.
- Naturally, such times recall old memories. Some things are gone forever. We had a large cherry tree that right about now would send showers of pink blossoms on every breeze, a fantasy scene. Alas, it came down in a storm some years ago. An old apple tree in our backyard has been missing for decades, and yet I still remember it blooming, with bees everywhere.
- I try sometimes to meditate calmly and remember distant places and times, often anchored by the season in which I am located. I do not dwell on summers or winters while April surrounds me, but rather concentrate on other Aprils elsewhere and elsewhen. Usually, I fail. Memory preserves only the most exceptional events in our lives. Spring and April just flow by, creating gentle but fuzzy recollections.
- So I do my best to appreciate April now. That is what I have. And that is an awful lot. And I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to watch this season through its normal course, even if I will have forgotten most of it next year.
- April showers are generally more appreciated in nursery rhymes than in real life. A quick drip or two is dandy, but weeks of constant clouds racing by, a few delivering moisture, can be quite depressing. Always expecting rain can also complicate apparel choices and what we carry with us on walks.
- Of course, this is a hermetically sealed age, and I suppose I am more aware of meteorology than anyone except farmers and fishermen. A retiree tends to focus on such things, having time to look out the window and the freedom to decide what to do today based on what is seen. When I was working it was simply a dash from house to car to office and back, the only notice of weather being in how it affected traffic.
- I find it an exercise in contrast. A brilliant sunny day around here is all the more exceptional for not being a dark rainy one. A dark rainy day can sometimes even be a relief from enforced sunshine. At least, I can try to make that my attitude, and I often succeed.
- Where are the snows of yesteryear?
- Gone into forever with the blooms of last spring.
- Our minds are so constituted as to embed important patterns that let us make sense of our world. Once a pattern is in place, we tend to ignore the particulars. A tree is just a tree, a cloud is just a cloud. I may enjoy watching a robin, a blue jay, or a cardinal outside my window, but I have no overlays of such birds in other times and places, not even from last year. I surely know what a robin, cardinal, or jay look like, but it is a single composite picture, not a series of snapshots from the past.
- I contrast that with unusual sights seared into memory. A bald eagle flying along route 17 one year, buzzards at a park in Florida another, hawks swooping below us at Letchworth state park. These I may never see again, but they remain somehow vivid.
- And so it is with many things. That is why travel is supposed to broaden the mind by filling it with the strange and new and out-of-pattern, so that we come home with enriched imaginations and enhanced perceptions. Sensory and mental tools sharpened, we are prepared to pay more attention to local experiences that we previously took for granted.
- Growing older, of course, is a constant evolution of mental fog. We claim to remember some things well, especially from childhood and adolescence, but the fact is we have a lot of trouble saying what we did any given day last week. Probably part of that is we now have had so many days to recall, but a bit of it is sheer neuronic decline. The flip side of that _ a bonus if we treat it correctly _ is that any view of a cardinal, robin, or jay can be a delicious and astounding event that we can enjoy as if it were the first time.
- Huntington tulips are not invasive and never naturalize. It is possible to see entire hillsides covered with daffodils lasting for centuries, or to come upon untended crocus patches in secret for
est glens. Tulips require care, and replenishment, and human intervention. But they are so beautiful that everyone plants them anyway, year after year.
- They do cause problems for towns and sites that advertise their “tulip festivals.” In Holland, blooms last a while in relatively predictable weather. Here, blooms may come and go in a day or two if the weather is too hot, may never happen if the ground is too dry, may open brilliantly only to be destroyed by a sudden harsh rain. And the timing is never certain, even when varieties are planted together to hopefully give an extended bloom.
- There is probably a life lesson in tulips. Fortunately, for me right now, the sheer esthetic pleasure of viewing them overwhelms such arid intellectual thoughts.
“Nothing is. Nothing is.” They squawk a while longer, then wing out over the whitecapped waves.