An Alaskan in Alabama (continued…)

May continued…
The university has finished its spring semester, and the town is almost silent except for the occasional roar of new construction or the buzz of gardening tools. The squirrels and birds are taking control of the street outside my house, though a vehicle still sometimes comes hurtling through, making everyone run for cover. The lush green on green of the trees, many shades of green setting off each other, makes me glad, as do the flowers. The first tulips have changed to irises, and the hydrangeas are now out: many a glorious icy blue. The farmers’ market is now multiple times a week, and I buy too many strawberries, savoring the smell that always makes me think of summer: fresh at first, then a little too rich, too strange, as the first bit of decay takes hold. However, the strawberries usually don’t have a chance to go off, as I eat them quickly, by themselves or over ice-cream: vanilla or chocolate.

I’m sure my thighs are going to puff out like popovers from all that ice-cream, but I’ll hopefully sweat off the weight on my long walks, especially now that the sun beats down so fully, the first humidity creeping in. I enjoy walking down to the river, the path’s vegetation growing so fast that it creeps in on you on both sides as you walk down the path: at some point it will meet in the middle. I marvel at the colors of the earth here, everything from ochre to soft orange to ox-blood red: such a contrast with the green of the trees and the grass. There’s too much grass here: speaking of endless watering and fertilizer. I’d love to tear it up and plant clover and sunflowers and small stepable plants that don’t need much watering or find out which native plants best conserve water or yield tasty items for the garden. I’ve got a few more plants now, most rescued from the roadside. For some reason people here seem to toss out plants, and I’ve gained everything from a lush fern, now cut down to a more sensible size, to pansies in many colors. The latter were a bit ungainly, too spindly or weedy some of them, but they’re perennials and should last for some time. I found many of them on a giant pile, along with any number of plant pots, many of them 12 dollars or more, stickers from the local hardware store still intact. I brought what I could carry home to my sad little patio, which needs some cheering up.

I’ve also been on the hunt for street furniture. I thought the decamping of the university’s undergraduates for the summer might be a bonanza of free goodies, but unlike Oregon and California there doesn’t seem to be a tradition of the three Rs; instead, people keep things or they toss them away. However, I’ve scored a few items to add to my meager collection, though my collection of boxes which, in my defense, is more for the cats than for me (though there was a phase in which much of my furniture was boxes), still made a recent visitor assume I was packing to move. The cats certainly appreciate more surfaces over which they can drape themselves, assuming an imperial mien, or hide under, ready for a sneak attack on each other.

Spring has also brought increased bird energy, as they all seek to raise their families. For me, it was a rather sad affair, as the wrens that nested in my topsy-turvy tomato plant were unsuccessful. Perhaps it was the cold spell we had, which put me back in my turtleneck and may have been too much for those little ones. The weather has been going back and forth, sometimes in a very schizophrenic fashion, and I wonder if the wren chicks were the two newest victims of climate change as the surety of the seasonal shifts, the stately progress from cold to warm to cool again, becomes less sure. Perhaps in this case it’s simply the fretfulness of nature: abundance and pleasant at one moment, and at the next a bleak landscape of chill and storm. Of course, I should be grateful I wasn’t here when the tornado hit, not all that long ago. It’s hard to hear and see those stories of people in other states, suffering so from storms. I don’t know if I would have the strength in any way to rebuild, to imagine a life again, knowing how quickly, and seemingly arbitrarily, the old one disappeared.

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