Northeast Ohio has finally decided to join the rest of the World and welcome Spring into its cold, frosty bosom. The windows are open to the warming breezes here at the Dept., and I finally allowed Rick to put the snow shovels back into the garage until October when they will be needed once more. I've used fresh-cut chives more than a couple of times, we have a fine, fine crop of weeds in the pea gravel between the flagstones in the back garden, and the pondfish are swimming around a little less lethargically.
It's about damn time.
On my various errands--many chauffering St. Patsy to her various Medical Necessaries--I am often enthralled by the many glorious flowering trees so many people are privileged to have in their yards. One oft-travelled route takes me past no less than five towering tulip trees in full bloom, their spent pink and white petals creating a pastel coverlet on the new grass beneath them. They are incredible. On that same drive is a bonfire of forsythia at the entrance of a pine forest. It looks as if a half-dozen bushes grew together unfettered by boundaries both upward and beyond. Blossoming trees froth with pink like bubbles on a strawberry soda, while the terraced elegance of rare dogwoods look serene and aloof.
When I was a kid, we had a big, gnarled, knotty apple tree in our backyard. Its branches spread far and wide, and it blossomed heavily every other year. My father loved that tree. Every single one of us was photographed up in that tree, from newborn to college. Grandkids were, too, the ones who were around while Dad was alive. The apple tree produced a ton of apples, too, but the bugs and birds always got to them before any one of us could. "Honey, you ought to get some spray and spray that tree," my mom used to say. My father would look at her like she had told him he should cut the tree down. He couldn't imagine spraying any sort of pesticide on his tree. He figured it was perfect the way that it was. It wasn't there for the apples, anyway. It was there for its beauty.
When I got a house of my own, I wanted a few things in my yard. One, I wanted a lilac bush. Two, I wanted rose bushes. Three, I wanted a flowering tree. My lilac bush got a powdery mildew or fungus or something, and little by little, no matter what we did for it, it kept dying back. My rose bushes just never did well, either, and even my father, The Rose Doctor himself, couldn't get the soil right for them. And the flowering tree?
We had two huge silver maple trees on our teeny tiny lot when we first moved here. One--which we had removed--was pretty much right in front of half of the garage. The other was in front of our house, on the curb lawn (which I had always called a tree lawn). There was no space anywhere for a flowering tree. Many years later, when we redid our backyard, taking out all the grass and landscaping it into a back garden, I told our landscaper that I wanted a flowering tree someplace in the scheme. "Can't do it," Marv said. "They get too big. Besides, the only place you have to put one, really, is too close to the pond. They drop stuff. Clog up the skimmer. Make a huge mess."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I appealed to Rick, who pressed the case to Marv again. But it was true. There wasn't any place for a flowering tree. "Everyone gets all excited and jazzed up about flowering trees," groused Marv. "It only lasts two weeks. Two weeks. Then what? Just a tree. No one thinks about that."
He's right. No one thinks about the other fifty weeks because they're too busy glorying in those two weeks. Two weeks of unabashed beauty. Two weeks of affirmation that yes, winter is not going to last forever, that spring is coming after all. Two weeks of hope. Two weeks of remembering that the world has lovely things to share. Two weeks of appreciating Nature's gifts after a dark and cold winter. Two weeks of knowing that something simple can still have the power to awe you. A wonderful two weeks that make me smile, appreciate, and remember.
I miss my father every day although he is with me always.