Friday, March 22, 2013

A Spring Interlude

Before I fully open my eyes each morning, I listen. Long before the sun has popped up, the world outside my window is gray and it is very quiet. My German Shepherd lays by my bed and looks out the window beside the bed and watches this world out side, keeping guard, always on duty. She patiently waits for me to rise, but I remain in bed to hear to the day’s beginning. Another good pull of the covers and I drift.

As the sun makes its slow ascent, the animal kingdom outside begins to wake and the noises begin with a few tentative peeps from some tiny unseen birds and gradually increases to a raucous symphony of many bird songs, from Cardinals, Red Shouldered Hawks, and many more unidentified troubadours. It is still too cool for most of the other woodland sounds of crickets and frogs but their songs will soon join these in a harmony of the spring ritual, one as old as time, and each year, a new beginning. 

So far this season we have five Purple Martins claiming gourds which hang on the pole for their housing for breeding season, three males and two females. It remains to be seen just how this arrangement is going to work out, but perhaps another female will join them in time. Their songs are once again filling the air as I walk back and forth to the barn to feed the horses. These perennial songs have serenaded me when I have been in the garden taking out the spent winter crops to make way for the summer seeds, and they are usually gone before the corn is ready to pick by mid summer. Theirs is a deeply comforting sound that I have heard now for many years, and associate with the welcome beginning of spring.

By paying attention to the sounds out here on the farm, I occasionally get to see things that had I not heard and turned my head, I would have missed. The other day I was standing in the garden pondering my over investment in collard plants last fall. The few tiny sprouts that I planted have grown freely and have now taken over the garden. We have eaten all that we can stand, I have given away bags and bags of them, frozen what I have room for in the freezer, and still they keep on growing. Anyway while I was mulling thoughts of how to murder a  bunch of collards, I heard overhead a strange, but kind of familiar squeak.

I looked up, and was stunned, to see two Bald Eagles flying together, one a white headed mature bird and the other still in immature, most likely second year old feathering. They circled each other climbing higher in the sky and then suddenly both folded their wings and dropped like rocks falling towards each other. They flung out their wings and each grabbed the other by the talons and fell in a dizzying spiral, screaming out the squeaking whistle that had first drawn my attention. Finally they let go of each other and began circling and rising again to repeat their courtship dance. Riding the thermals and the winds from the north they quickly flew out of my sight, and just like that were gone. Had I not heard them I would have surely missed this incredible sight. They were amazing, huge, and surprisingly agile in their aerial display and I was very glad I didn’t miss seeing such a special treat. 

It is officially spring now, mid March, and today is cold, rainy, and yucky. Yesterday by contrast was cool, but blue and bright. I happened to be in town doing errands and I was nearby one of the oldest neighborhoods in Montgomery, a lovely cottage covered  garden area of towering ancient oaks, pines, and magnolias. Having a few minutes to spare I found myself turning down one of the many winding lanes under the branches of some massive oaks.

Hanging on these branches were long and graceful strands of the soft silver and greenish grays of the Spanish Mosses. These strands swung in the breeze and cast dancing shadows that moved across the tiny lawns and gardens below. A hint of a pale green haloed the trees with tiny leaves just emerging, but it was the gardens below that I had ventured to see. 

I am sure that spring every where is welcomed as a respite from winter, no matter how mild or how severe, but the early spring in the South is special and can be no less than extraordinary depending on where you are. By combination of the right climate and soil, Montgomery, and other lucky areas in the South, have areas which are home to a unique combination of plant life. These plants bloom prolifically for only a short period of time, but they do so in a dazzling, and spectacular display of crazy colors and shapes. 

This neighborhood, Old Cloverdale, is one such lucky place where the charming older houses are tucked away, on randomly laid out roads, hidden under the shadows of these massive and ancient oaks, and at this time of year, their yards are ablaze with the blooms of azaleas in every hue, and size. The shrubs wash the yards with broad strokes of pure outrageous color from whites and pale pinks, to scarlet, violet, purples,  and oranges. These banks of color blend together and are continuous through out the entire neighborhood, running together like a water color wash down a page. 

Punctuating the azaleas are the taller camellias, now also covered in full outrageous blooms of reds, whites, and mixes. Below them both are the seas of various bulbs with their bobbing heads of yellows and oranges on stalks of fresh green. An occasional Dogwood tree gracefully stretches its limbs covered with its pristine white, or pink, four petaled blooms through the scene giving visual pause from the garish color below it. 

I drove past my grandparent’s yard, now owned by someone new. I was very sad to see that so many of the lovely camellia shrubs had been removed. I remembered my walks with my grandfather as he admired the blooms on the shrubs he had loved so much. There was one shrub left though, on the front of the house that I could see through the new fence. It was covered with large, deep red, ruffled heirloom blooms, but sadly it had been pruned and looked rather pitiful in its newly misshaped form. My time running out, I drove on away, my lovely interlude was over.

Spring is about flowers, but it is also, fishing time. Last weekend, St Patrick’s Day, we spent a pleasant afternoon with our daughter, son in law, and little Margaret in the small pond on the farm. We were fishing for, what we hoped would be, a first of the season, fried fish dinner. Margaret took her turn driving the boat while some of us threw hooks in the water. The bream, and the bass too, were biting well and we caught what we needed, a bit sunshine, enough fish, togetherness, and a nice memory of a beautiful spring day in the South.

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