As I walk outside this time of year, I can tell spring is waiting to burst out. It’s like a…well, a compressed spring. There’s a palpable, coiled force that will be released soon, at least here in NC. (Sorry, northern friends.) Our next string of warm days might spur buds on the trees, greening grass, and a chorus of avian song.
Some couldn’t wait. I’ve seen robins hunting worms. Geese are showing up in grassy clearings around town. Daffodils have pushed through the earth but haven’t yet flowered. The Bradford pear trees are in bloom. Their white blossoms are a nice break from the bare branches, even if they are an “ecological disaster“. (I imagine Bradbury pear trees would be worse because they would be a Martian species, invasive and carnivorous. Sorry, my writer’s brain does’t stop.)
When will the other trees follow suit? I can’t help but think of the brave kids that were first to jump into the swimming pool in early summer. They always said the same thing to us more cowardly swimmers: “It’s not that cold. You’ll get used to it. Come on!” Do you think these early arboreal bloomers put the same pressure on their neighbors? “Come on, oaks, maples! Winter’s over. There might be a few cold nights left, but you’ll get used to it?” I wouldn’t trust those daffodils. I’ve seen them push up through the snow. I probably shouldn’t even mention the blasted dandelions. Some of them are already going to seed and scattering their fluffy aviators all over the place.
Misophonia is occasionally in the news. It’s the rage-inducing sensitivity to certain sounds. I’m lucky enough not to suffer from it. I only notice the occasional sound that drives me batty, though I’m a big fan of quiet for times of concentration and creativity. I wonder if Cookie Monster’s enthusiastic chomping and crunching ever triggered anyone? That would be tragic. He’s long been one of my favorite Sesame Street characters. Maybe it’s our mutual love of those desserts. If he ate them quietly, it wouldn’t be the same. I don’t think he would have the patience to soften them in a glass of milk. His name isn’t Reasonable Cookie Aficionado, right?
A friend of my family’s, whom I remember from childhood, recently passed away. His name is Al, and news of his death shocked and saddened me. Most of the memories I have of him involve my deceased father. They worked together as well as played together. I vividly remember their partnership in canoe regattas. Al crafted his own paddles. He was a handy guy, even blew glass, which seemed like magic to me back then. He and my dad also carpooled together, so I saw Al often. He would pour a cup of coffee from our pot while my family finished breakfast, and they would head off to work.
One morning, Al stopped short in the doorway. We all stared at him, puzzled by his uncustomary quiet. The cat figured out what was amiss. Our orange tom froze in mid step. His growl seemed just as freakish as Al’s quiet. Then the smell hit us, the acrid, tear-inducing stench of skunk.
We had experienced a rash of skunk trouble during the summer. The pesky rascals toppled our trash cans and made a mess of the yard. My dad owned a tender-heart trap and had successfully nabbed several of the varmints, always careful to throw a sheet over the trap before loading it into the back of the pick-up and transporting them out of town. Al borrowed the trap and was not as successful. He must have been in a hurry to get to work and somehow not realized he’d been sprayed. Even today, when I smell skunk, I think of Al’s mishap and chuckle. RIP, Al. You’ve left a lot of people who treasured you and treasure memories of you still.