Saturday, April 5, 2008


Today's weather is what what those weather personalitites on TV call "seasonable." (I always thought a person just learning English would be confused by that expression. The weather is seasonable? You can flavor it, like, with salt and pepper? How would I have explained that in my TEFL teacher days? It would have been fun to get the question.)

There's the slightest chill in the air, but if you're in the sun you can easily go with just shirtsleeves and not feel cold. The sky is a hazy but blue, a sign of the rain that's nearby but has not yet reached us and may not as the day progresses. It's the kind of day that beckons you outside, as if the burgeoning weed population, regaining strength after its decimation just a few weeks ago, were not enough. This morning I weeded the front garden next to the driveway and then went to the back to survey what's happening there. The weeds have not made a comeback yet, so far. The clematis is budding out and starting to climb its trellis; the daylilies are all coming up along the border; the peonies are poking their spring-red shoots toward the sun. There is at least one disappointment this year: my rhubarb seems not to have survived last year's exceptional heat and drought. That's a shame. I've grown rhubarb since we've been in this house and, with two plants, always had enough for at least three pies per year. Assuming we will be leaving sometime next year or the next, I see little reason to start new plants--they take at least one growing season to be harvestable, anyway. Guess I'll be buying rhubarb for pies this year. A new experience for me.

The picture at top is of the big maple tree in the back yard. As you can see, it creates the character of the immediate back of the house, shading the deck with its broad embrace. The tree was poorly managed as a sapling, allowed to grow into all those trunks. It would be much more stable with only one central trunk, but the tree was too big to alter even 27 years ago, when we moved here, so we've managed it as best we could. It could easily be 35 to 40 years old now, which is old for a silver maple. We pray it will last and do its summer magic long enough to sell the house. (And not fall on it!)

That tree is a blessing, but it's also a mess that keeps on messing. It's as if silver maples anticipate constant bad times and produce everything with extreme redundancy, like rocket ships with all their backup systems. The stage before the one you see now was the flowering phase, when little red buds in their thousands grew on the bare branches and then fell off, to be tracked into the house. The flowers that stayed on the tree matured into the baby seeds you see in the picture. Soon those seeds will be fully formed single-rotor helicopters that will eventually dry, and then flutter down like a snowstorm in the first big wind. They will land in rain gutters, on the lawn and in the garden, and sprout in profusion. We could have a veritable maple forest here if we were to let all those sprouts grow. Finally, the luxurious leaf canopy will come; this is the reward we humans get for putting up with the mess needed to create it. But after all its shade, the tree will demand attention one more time, when all those leaves dry and fall and need to be raked. I wish I could say the autumn foliage on a silver maple was a beautiful prelude to the raking, but that would be more than a stretch. The leaves just turn a dull yellow, full of brown spots, and then die. Not much in the way of splendor.

A wonderful service of Arlington County is the vacuuming of leaves from the street in late fall. Homeowners are given a schedule and asked to have their leaves in piles next to the curb around the time the big vacuum truck is due to make a pass on their street. This is done three times per season. The leaves are taken to the county mulch pile, where they are chopped and composted, and then sold, at the cost of labor and equipment only, back to homeowners as mulch the following spring. This is one of the many things we will miss about The Peoples' Republic of Arlington when and if we ever leave here.

Outdoors calls once again. I hope your Saturday is unfolding as pleasantly as mine.


Cuidado said...

It's amazing how far ahead you are in spring. I'd say a month. We don't have snow except at the edges of fields but it will be a month or more before we have daffodils. Our weather is seasonable....for here.

Ralph said...

Cuidado, when I read your comment I tried to remember if this was earlier than usual, and it is, just a bit. Global warming is doing its thing--peonies used to be guaranteed to be in full bloom by the end of May; now they're almost past their prime by then. Like I said another time, the days will come here when we will dearly miss this gentle weather.

Kat said...

We have crocus and daffodils but little else. Spring usually skirts right by us. One day it is raw and cold. The next day is early summer.

In a few weeks, when I go to Boston, I'll see buds as I head toward the city. I'll be jealous.

Ralph said...

Oh, I forgot to mention the daffodils. Thanks fore the reminder, Kat. They're at full tilt right now. And lilac is in very fragrant bud.