Honeysuckle Spring

Honeysuckle Spring

This is my favorite time of the year…If Mother Nature takes her meds and decides it is going to be a mild spring or a hot spring.  We seem to be yoyoing just a bit.  I can take either just not both during the same week…or within the same twenty-four-hour period.

We may have just finished “blackberry winter” with morning temps dipping into the thirties, but I’m not sure…we’ve been fooled before and the forecast is for cooler temps after this weekend’s dose of summer.

This is the time of year between tree pollen season when my hemlock trees coat everything with a fine, yellow-green powder that hardens like a coating of concrete after a heavy dew and the peak of mosquito and stinging insect season.  I say the peak of mosquito season because mosquito season in my part of the world lasts from January 1st through…through…forever.  It peaks during the sultry, moist, yeast filled days of summer but never really going away.

We are not celebrating or decrying summer yet despite the weather forecasts of near ninety temperatures this coming weekend.  The weather guessers have now backed off a bit saying mid-eighties.  The low seventies are forecast later in the week.

Summer heat and humidity will descend soon enough with thunderstorms followed by clouds of mosquitoes, gnats, “no see ‘ems” and yellow jackets erupting from holes in the ground.  We have already had several thunderstorms with hale and tornadoes but no huge clouds of mosquitoes…just little clouds of mosquitoes rising from the soggy earth looking for a bite.

This time of year is filled with wonderful scents should my allergies calm down enough for me to savor them.  My nose is running like a criminal from the scene of a crime, but at least my sinuses are not slamming shut like a jailhouse door.

Like mosquito season my allergy season is a year-long affliction.  My allergies peak in early spring with the yellow blossoms of forsythia and the green-yellow pollen from my hemlock trees before receding slightly before peaking again in late summer or early fall when the ragweed ramps it up again.  I wish winter would end the allergies and the mosquitoes…but no.  One more reason to hate winter.

Today seems to be the one day my allergies have ebbed enough for me to actually stop and smell the roses…or honeysuckle, multiflora roses, jasmine, and privet.  All are putting off their heady perfume and reminding me why my bride doesn’t let me cut them back, especially the honeysuckle.  The sweet smells allows me to travel back in my mind to a much simpler time.

The perfume of honeysuckle and privet dominated my childhood home, despite my grandmother’s best attempt to eradicate the honeysuckle.  Not that she didn’t like it or the hummingbirds it attracted but like the wisteria vine she also grew, honeysuckle had to know its place.  Its place was somewhere “out there” along the woodline, not “in here” near the garden.

I remember inhaling the aroma of honeysuckle blossoms before picking and carefully pulling out the style through the bottom of the blossom and treating myself to the small drop of nectar that came out with it.  A small, sweet treat I cheated the hummingbirds out of.  I’m still cheating the hummingbirds out of it.

My grandmother was an avid gardener, both in the fields she and my grandfather toiled in and the rock gardens she created from the stones she pulled from the rock-filled ground she tried to farm.  Milky, white quartz stones were highly prized and displayed prominently among the roses, iris, lilies, and hollyhocks she cultivated.  Except for the roses, none were as aromatic as the honeysuckle or privet hedges that surrounded the old farmhouse, she lived in.  None take me back to the days of playing alongside the dusty, dirt road I lived on like the sweet smell of honeysuckle and privet.

As I welcomed the dawn from my backdoor this morning, a sweet fragrance hung heavily and welcomed in the still air.  Honeysuckle with hints of privet hedge and jasmine…the multiflora rose is too far away but if I turn my back for a minute it may cover my drive.

It seems to be a perfect morning with Goldilocks and the Three Bears temperatures and a beautiful crescent moon showing clearly in the southeastern sky.  A bird roosting in the camellia bush sings loudly in agreement.

My little piece of heaven has honeysuckle and privet galore, out of control on fence lines and creeping toward my garden, threatening to overrun my home.  Like a good general, I pick my battles where I can, battles I can win against my memories and my wife.  My goal is not to win the war on honeysuckle and privet, just to continue to keep it stalemated.

Who am I kidding? I am losing but the sweet scents soften the blow.

Tomorrow I will arm myself with a weed eater and chainsaw while girding myself with a floppy brimmed booney hat, face gaiter, goggles, boots, and leather work gloves.  Blue jeans will replace my work shorts protecting me from the blackberries which are also in a war of dominance with the privet and lest I forget, the emerging kudzu.

The scent of Deep Wood’s Off and Banana Boat SPF 100 will briefly blot out the scents of honeysuckle and privet…but only briefly.  I will create a line in the sand, “Cross at your own peril!”…and the line will be ignored.   Deep down, I am glad.  The sweet smelling war will continue.

Further writings by Don Miller can be purchased and downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2xADU9Tanwff98vrukeigPx7fK6H1brWnklDG5Od_95wYn1PEpniUDvMQ

 

 

If History Repeats…Another Spring Day in January

If history repeats itself, we are in for our coldest days of winter yet…of course, this global climate change “thingy” might have erased any previous history.  Still, I have faith.  I predict our coldest days will occur on or around February the Third.

Why am I so sure?  Since the early Seventies, I have kept a close watch on the weather of late winter.  Spring sport’s practice, a misnomer in this part of the world, begins in the late winter.  For thirty-eight of the forty-five years that I coached, I coached baseball.  Usually, the coldest days of winter occurs around the start of baseball practice in South Carolina.  This year’s start date, February 3.  Sleet, freezing rain, snow, and winds are sure to follow.

Truth be known, the cold start of baseball practice is what finally convinced me to retire.

If history repeats itself, Mother Nature will be bi-polar in the foothills of the Blue Ridge and in the Piedmont of South Carolina until April…or maybe early May.  We will have days of teeth chattering bitter cold with howling winds.  We will have frigid rains bordering and sometimes crossing over to the freezing variety.  We will have sleet driven by icy winds or huge, wet snowflakes that are here today and gone tomorrow.

If history repeats itself there will be spring days as well.  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde weather with lows in the twenties and highs in the fifties or sixties.  Days that defy the calendar of January, February, March, and early April.  Days when crocus, buttercups and Scotch Broom are confused and punch out of the winter ground and bloom.  Days when my Red Bud begins to show pink only to be nipped in the bud by Jack Frost and Old Man Winter a day or two later.

Yesterday was the day that proves the rule.  With daylight hours lengthening enough to recognize, I was greeted with deep blue, cloudless skies.  Redtail hawks caught the thermals in the brightest of sunshine, whistling to each other…sharing their joy with me.  A purple finch stopped by my feeder showing the spring color that gave him his name.  A day so bright I felt the pull to search seed catalogs and almanacs to see when I should plant.

Don’t get me wrong, the feeling passed.  Yesterday was a deceptive day.  All spring looking but… There was still a nip in the wind making the low fifties seem like low forties and with no nighttime cloud cover, the lows have dipped into the high twenties before thinking of rebounding into the mid-fifties.  It looks like spring even if it doesn’t quite feel like spring.

This crazy season in the foothills of the Blue Ridge seems a lot like life.  It’s the good times that make life livable and the bad times less so bad.  Days like yesterday and today make the winter more survivable until the rains come tomorrow.  According to Longfellow and The Ink Spots, “Into each life, a little rain must fall”…but the sunshine makes it survivable if not likable.

Here is a toast for more spring days in January…and February….

The 1944 song by the Ink Spots took its title from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Rainy Day.   If you listened you might think you hear Ella Fitzgerald.  You did.  She had a voice like a springtime too.

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM.