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» Tuesday, March 25, 2003
One of the most beautiful parts of spring here in Atlanta is also one of the most annoying: the spring blooming of the flowering shrubs and trees. For those of us allergic to plants, it’s a yearly nightmare. The air gets thick and gritty. We have one particular form of pollen which is visible and which the allergists say is "too big" granularly to bother people's allergies. Well, while it might be "too big" from an allergy point of view, it's still a bugaboo: for several weeks the pine "dust," as it were, coats everything with a fine film of yellow. Everything it strikes turns yellow, including grazing animals, flowerpots, and especially our white truck. At its worst, the pine dust forms little yellow swirls in the street which eddy and convolute in the breeze, and coats every bit of furniture in a room if you so much dare to leave a curtain open, leaving throats and noses raw.
The color is another thing all together. Usually the hardy forsythia leads the pack. Even in New England this gallant little yellow flower peeks out its earliest, sometimes even when people shiver and blow smoke in the morning air. There's another tree that blooms early, with blossoms of a brilliant lavender color, and soon another species of tree shows itself to the world with not flowers, but the red buds of leaves.
The peak of spring is when the Bradford pears bloom. These decorative trees attract attention because, without pruning, they naturally grow in an egg shape, and during the mid-weeks of March burst into a brilliant white bloom that resembles an eggshell color as well. Roads lined with Bradford pears look as if someone had planted giant snowballs instead, and when the first shoots of pale green leaves appear, the Bradfords send down drifts of tiny petals to cover the ground with a floral snow.
In the meantime, yet more lavender-colored trees appear, the jonquils with their pale yellow trumpet faces bloom, and then the world becomes pink for a while when the flowering cherries present their gorgeous blossoms to the sun. About this time yet another type of tree bursts into bloom: one with pale flowers that are a delicate shell pink with just a touch of blue in the color to make them look pale violet in certain lights. Unlike the egglike Bradford pears, these trees send undisciplined branches everywhere. The ephermal magnolias also appear, creamy white petals with dark pink edges, sturdy for a few days, then drooping and dropping to form a milky carpet on the grass or red clay below.
Last to flower are the azaleas--in riots of large and small blooms in myriad colors of white, pale pink, dark pink, and magenta--and finally the dogwoods, with their big four-petaled flowers notched at the tip. In moonlight the dogwood petals take on the moonshine, forming glowing patches above a dark trunk, like spirits floating in yards and at roadsides.
In the meantime, the birds run riot with song. Robins overrun the lawns and shriek "Cheerily! cheerily! cheerily!" from the treetops. The scurrying chickadees who weeks earlier congregated at the bird feeder now flitter about frantically; when they stop big tufts of hair or branches can be seen in their beaks. Nest building is in full swing.
Our work building is close to a marsh and every morning the dark, elongated bodies of Canada geese can be seen rising above it, beating wings as they head north. But probably the most beautiful thing I'd seen in a long time happened just this morning, as I walked up to the building. Somewhere a bird was shrieking "Sweet! Sweet! Sweet!" as if magnified by some man-made megaphone, but no, it was his natural, joyful voice alone, proclaiming his territory among the office buildings and parked cards. There he was, perched at the edge of the roof of our white building, brilliant in the sun, a bright red cardinal clear against the light blue sky. In the morning sun he looked as if he were afire, a scarlet sprite dancing up and down as he sang his song. I stood mesmerized at the color, at the song.
Only when he finally flew away was I, regretfully, able to come back to the real world and go inside...