Sunday, March 12, 2006

Azalea Days

I left in a hurry for work last Monday but not without noticing the flurry of blooms on my azaleas. Two bushes front my entrance, and I'd estimate they've been flowering for at least 25 years. Most Springs, the azaleas launch into their hyperactive blooming in early March only to be hit by the last gust of Florida winter a week later. If not the chill in the air, then the rain pelts the fragile blooms into a sad anemic litter on the ground. This year, they hanging in there, literally and in full flush this morning on two sides of my home..

Spring. I'd hardly noticed winter. Yesterday, driving down 17-S to Palatka, I saw from the road a swath of new green mingled in with the brown-green of old leaves. There was no division; it all swept together and that's when I realized that the temperatures must've changed and that something akin to a season of winter must have taken place here.

At Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka, the annual Azalea Festival brought in visitors even though the azaleas were barely in bloom. That didn't matter to me (I had my azaleas at home) and didn't seem to matter much to the folks climbing up and down the ravine either.

I noticed lots of dogs on leash. People with Harley Davison tee shirts.One blue iris in a pond. I watched minnows swim upstream in the clean spring-fed creeks running on both sides of the ravine floor. Listened to the loud kids in their marching band uniforms as they ran across the sturdy suspension bridge or stomped through the gardens in denial of their calm. A youngster pushed his kid sister around in her archaic carriage, double wheels digging in the ground. I watched as he lifted her and the carriage in his arms to carry her across steep rock steps while his heedless father and mother walked on ahead. I ate kettle korn and traversed the ravine. Stopped to read Erewhon at a picturesque bench at the top. Listened to a man sing "Lean On Me" and "Georgia" and other mournful tunes out of key. But I saw little flowering. A birdsong here and there. It was an indeterminate day, facing summer and shedding the season before, still not flush. I imagine in May or June, the Gardens will be abuzz, lively with bird life, sticky with the sweat of its travelers.Still after walking the ravine, down, up, down, across and up again, I was sweating. It was a good adventure.

Back home in my window seat, a blue jay has found the sunflower seed I set out months ago. It swoops in so quietly to snatch one, lands on a limb and bangs the seed casing against the wood. Yesterday morning the same bird was collecting twigs and moss in its beak. The tufted titmouse are here. My budgies are deliriously happy. I love Spring.

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