This spring has a wildness about it I don’t remember seeing before. Everything is sporting an eye-popping lushness. My theory is that the harsh winter (and perhaps the more reserved production of several prior years) has something to do with this year’s extravagance. Then again, it might just be something cyclical in the nature of an ecosystem.
I really don’t know, but I am certainly enjoying the show. This picture was taken from our kitchen window early in May. The pink blossoms front and center are on the redbud tree; the bright green leaves to the right are on the wild cherry tree just behind the redbud. Across the driveway is the ancient and always gorgeous copper beech, which displays a variety of red leaves from early spring to late fall. In the lower left corner is a dogwood that is actually behind the main building, and behind that is one of our many maples, just beginning to wave its own green signs of spring.
The view changes constantly. A few days ago the redbud began to exchange its deep pink beauty for wide green heart-shaped leaves, and will soon receive its first pruning in some years. The wild cherry is beginning to build its own blossoms: right now they are tiny green buds that look a lot like the cherries that will appear toward the end of the growing season, but soon they will appear as banana-like clumps of small white flowers. The copper beech leaves are beginning to darken, and the dogwoods are tossing their delicate petals to the ground in wild abandon. The azalea and lilac bushes are so prolifically decked out this year they are actually bending their branches toward the ground.
And it’s not just this eye-candy thing going on; for some time the heady perfume of lilac blooms has saturated the air. Every day sisters, teachers, students and bees jockey for position to drink in that smell. (Okay, I know the bees are doing a little more than smelling, but you get the idea.)
I’m trying to figure out how all this works. A lot of animals and birds and insects are either waking up or showing up, most of them hungry. Do the showy colors and smell attract them in ways they wouldn’t figure out on their own? I mean, really, is all this necessary?
I know nothing is wasted in a healthy ecosystem, but I’m convinced the beauty surrounding us is both necessary and gratuitous. Something changes inside me when the lilacs bloom. One deep breath, and I’m back in 1954 or so, lying down under another lilac, a nine-year-old transported to lilac heaven. I can see that same dozey look on the other adults as they take their turn at the purple blooms. Lilacs have a gentle “power” over most of us.
It might work for the birds and bees and every other hungry soul to be attracted to one color, or one smell, or one shape for that matter. It could have been that way … but it’s not. Our Universe seems intent on variety, and its living systems are built to enjoy that wild abundance, whether we’re eating, or smelling or remembering.
I’m so glad.