Every year it’s a major event that goes unreported, the coming of spring.
Poets praise it and artists render it, but somehow it doesn’t register much in daily communications. The transformation is remarkable, but not news.
I’ve tried a few times to cover it. Twenty two years ago, I wrote about the dramatic blooming of dogwoods in the Triangle. I said, “The dogwood is not the first bloom of spring, but it is the bloom that makes it spring.” The story went on to discuss the widespread planting of the tree scientifically known as Cornus florida, whose blossom is the state’s official flower. I also found that its future was clouded by a fungal blight. (A threat the trees largely have survived).
A few years ago, I wrote about “the greening of Raleigh,” how the Capital City, for all its population growth and construction remains engulfed in trees. It is not only “The City of Oaks,” but also still true to its more evocative motto, “a city in a park.”
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It’s good to occasionally call attention to a seasonal landscape that is at once spectacular and taken for granted, but it deserves much more. Not only because it’s spring, but because it’s spring here in the Piedmont of North Carolina. I’ve lived in several states – Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Texas and, for a summer, Minnesota – but nowhere have I seen nature explode with the color and profusion that I see every spring in Raleigh.
Here, spring is not simply a season. It’s an event.
That event is now happily coinciding with Easter and the land proclaims rebirth in a way that even the Psalms can’t express. The roadsides are lined with white dogwoods, redbud trees, azaleas and tulips. Yellow pine pollen dusts cars and windows. Cardinals and robins flit from bush to tree. It comes on all at once. One day the dogwoods are winter gray, the next they are wreathed in white. It seems as if we should respond with a long festival and a suspension of work. It’s feels wrong to be indoors, missing the amazing.
The credit for this triumph goes mostly to the local climate. This region has a real, but not brutal winter that yields to a long spring. It allows for several weeks of open windows before the arrival of broiling, humid heat requires turning on the air conditioner. These days, the light is warm, the evenings cool. It makes an ideal place for blooming.
But people should get credit alongside nature. North Carolinians are industrious gardeners and tree planters. Residential streets are often garden-like, big lawns, old trees, balanced and bountiful shrubs. Many cities, either because of climate or culture, can’t match the depth of green and flower that is commonplace here.
No doubt some of the area’s spring bounty is a legacy of N.C. State University and its expertise in agriculture and landscape design. The JC Raulston Arboretum at N.C. State is a paradise of plants and trees and an fountainhead of gardening expertise for students and locals alike. Duke Gardens and the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill do the same.
Mark Weathington, the Arboretum’s director, says this spring will be especially bright because the early budding wasn’t hit by a late freeze. “This has been a great spring,” he says. “We seem to be getting a really good flower show.”
While the world blooms, there is still gloom even about nature itself. The climate is changing because humans aren’t changing our use of fossil fuels fast enough. The warmth can have an ominous edge. In Washington, D.C., the cherry blossoms bloomed two weeks early. The ice of Greenland is sliding into the sea. Every passing winter is the warmest ever.
And there is, of course, the human climate of tension and worry. But these days, don’t let that block the sun. Consider the quote from Ernest Hemingway in his account of life in Paris, “A Movable Feast.”
“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”
Don’t miss the show. Savor the season. And be as good as spring itself.
Barnett: 919-829-4512, nbarnett@newsobserver. com