“Doesn’t it seem as though her heart were a green flame? Perhaps it’s the cold green heart of a small green snake, with a minute flaw in it, the kind of small green snake that slithers from branch to branch in the jungle, passing itself off as a vine. What’s more, perhaps when she gave me the ring with such a gentle, loving expression, she wanted me to draw such a meaning from it some day.”
― Yukio Mishima, Spring Snow
To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.
Though his health and family had been broken in the process, he’d found his purpose in life — to share the ancient key discovered anew in the garden: if we feed the earth, it will feed us.
I see that is the secret, too, to living. Though the earth demands its sacrifices, spring will always return.
—- Melissa Coleman
Spring comes early in Texas. Spring comes in the middle of winter. The green shoots that will collect the energy, energize the chlorophyll, store the sugar needed for this season’s flowers are already pulling themselves up out of the black soil.
The curve of the leaves is still pristine – not yet tattered by the windstorms to come or eaten by the insects still sleeping in their eggs. On my way to work I watch the green tips poke up, multiply, and spread out to catch the fire of the morning sun peeking over the horizon.
The dead heat, yellow straw and the dry dust is still a long way off, but it will come. Let them grow when they will – while they can.
April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.
—- T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
Somehow, surfing around the web, looking for information on the area near where I live and work, I stumbled across a tiny little article about a place called McKamy Springs, Richardson, Texas. The page told about a historic spring that was once used by the Native Americans as a reliable water source while hunting buffalo on the open prairie. There was a crude black and white photograph of a spring inclosed in a brick dome. Below the dome a small stream of bright water poured out.
The spring had been bricked over sometime in the past and a commemorative stone placed beside it. The stone said, “The Yoiuane tribe of the Caddo group of Indians lived here as early as 1690 to 1840. They hunted buffalo and deer on the prairie. They used McKamy Spring as a watering place. It was from these friendly Tejas Indians that Texas got her name.”
Well, there isn’t much open prairie in these here parts nowadays – so I wondered if the spring was still there. I noticed that there was a small park called McKamy Springs Park in the middle of a new transit oriented development called Brick Row in Richardson along my way to work. I rode my bicycle there once while working out a bike route to work.
I remembered a nice, peaceful, little park in the place – I stopped there to rest and drink a water bottle. I didn’t notice a spring… but I wasn’t looking for one. Could the little McKamy Spring still be down there?
While I was out and about, it didn’t take much to stop by and take a look. Sure enough, the spring was there, exactly as it was in the photo (only now it was in color). Only a pitiful dribble of water trickled out, but I know how wonderful a trickle like that can be in a dry country. Green algae was growing over the stream and I had to climb down to fish out a discarded water bottle and a shopping bag.
Still, it seems cool to me that the little spring is still there, spitting out a bit of groundwater, even if it is surrounded by kids on a playground, locals walking their dogs, and folks sneaking out for a smoke. The open plains, the deer and the buffalo are long gone, but little McKamy Spring is still hanging in there.
This is the time of the year full of those rare North Texas days of cool mornings and warm afternoons. I can feel the killer heat of summer crouched on the horizon, ready to pounce. But in the meantime, it is so nice, so much of a shame to be cooped up in a cubicle for so many hours. When the whistle sounds, I want to be outside – to capture as much of this time as I can in preparation for the blazing oven season ahead.
There is this spot – the Spring Creek Natural area – where the concrete bike riding trails enter some thick creekbottom floodplain woods and loop around to give a bicycle rider the illusion of being outside of the city for a few minutes.
Candy and I have swapped cars for a few days. The car I have now is a tiny hatchback – much smaller than the one I drive on most days. With the back seats folded, however, I discovered my bicycle can fit in the back without even taking either wheel off. Maybe I’ll keep driving this car and carry my bike with me – get in some quick rides in different parts of the city. Maybe I don’t have to spent my money on a folding bike.
Candy was worried about leaving my bike in the car. “I bought it for used for ninety dollars twenty years ago,” I told her. I remember now, I was saving to buy a bike and then found this one at a pawn shop. I figured it could get me by until I saved enough for a decent one. I guess I have my money’s worth. “You’ve put a lot into it, though,” she said. Well… not really. Tires and tubes, of course. I had to buy a new brake lever/shifter set – but I found that on clearance and paid less than fifty dollars for it. I need to buy a new chain – but those are cheap – the thing has been slipping cogs if I push too hard and I think the chain is worn.
The bike is a hunk of crap – but I’ll take it apart, clean and lube it… one more time.
I rode around the Spring Creek woods, taking it easy. I’d stop every now and then at a place with a bench and read a story on my Kindle. Sometimes I’d check the baseball scores on my phone. That’s a nice way to waste a day.
After hanging out in the dappled sunlight of the woods for awhile, I thought about how nice it would be to have other people do this. We could ride along the central trail along 75 to Eastside and grab a burger, maybe a cold beer, then ride back. Never happen, but I rode the route anyway, just to see if it was doable. A nice little ride, actually. It’s a shock to leave the deep, muffled forest and be suddenly along a screaming eight-lane highway, though the trail makes the ride easy. I didn’t get anything to eat, but sat on a bench at Eastside for a bit, watched the folks come and go before cruising back down into the woods.
On our visit to Lafayette we could not help but notice the beauty of all the azaleas blooming across south Louisiana. No matter how humble your little cottage might be, you can have all the color you want exploding outside.
I stepped out of a little restaurant and walked around back to take this picture. As I was raising the camera a couple of guys tumbled out of the business next door. They looked a little mixed between confused and upset and one said, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” – and not in a tone of voice that implied he really wanted to help me with anything.
“Nope, I’m just taking pictures of the flowers.”
“He’s just taking pictures of the flowers,” the guy said to his buddy, in a disgusted tone, and they went back inside without another glance at me.
Azaleas don’t do very well in Dallas, where I live. The soil is not acidic enough – right under the surface is a thick layer of limestone (caliche) that keeps the soil basic. A lot of people do plant them and fight the acidity. Some pour swimming pool acid (hydrochloric) into a trench before planting – the best thing is to dig a big hole and fill it with peat moss. Still, no matter what you do, eventually the caliche will infiltrate the soil and your flowering bushes are toast.
East Texas has beautiful azeleas. I remember, years ago, doing a bicycle ride along the Azalea Trail in Tyler. It was gorgeous. Maybe a road trip this spring would be an idea.
Dallas is right on the edge between two areas of vegetation. To the east, it’s all piney woods, dogwood, and azaleas. To the west – mequite and prickly pear.
None of it is like what I saw in South Louisiana, though. The things seemed to grow like weeds.
When we first lived in Nicaragua, before the earthquake, my brother and I had to catch the bus to school at the entrance to our driveway on Carretera Sur. Since the drive popped out in a narrow space between two walls, one of us had to stand there and wait for the bus – or it wouldn’t see us and wouldn’t stop.
The problem was there was this big tree – right there, splitting our driveway at the entrance to the highway. It would bloom all the time – covered thick with bright yellow blossoms. These would fall and form a carpet under the tree. It looked great- the blossoms a colorful scene of yellow against the green of the leaves, the brown of the bark, and the dark gray tarmac of the drive and highway.
But the blossoms would rot in the tropical heat. The sweet-smelling flowers would decay into a sickly foulness that was impossible to stand. The smell was unbearable. My brother and I would take turns waiting under the tree, watching for the bus while our sibling stood well back up the yard in the fresh air, until we couldn’t stand it any more and then switch places. When it was really rank we would have to hold our breath and would trade off every minute or so until the bus rumbled up.
I thought of that as I sat at the Farmer’s Market. The central passage, around the La Marketa Café, is lined in trees and the trees were in bloom. They were thick with white blossoms which were falling like a dusting of snow. A thin layer covered the ground, stirred up into tiny white flowery tornados whenever the wind circled into miniature cyclones coming around the corners of the building. They were beautiful.
And best of all, they didn’t stink.