Southern Appalachian Spring


redbud-dogwood_450Winter rarely gets a complete toe-hold on the hills of Appalachian Kentucky.  But being the old man that he is, he sometimes has a sneeze or cough that sends everyone deep inside, beside their hearth, peeking through frosted windows at a semi frozen, semi muddy and gray landscape.  There are no prayers as fervent as the ones sent to heaven by fifth graders during this time begging, no imploring, the Almighty to just send them a snow day.  One would be fine.  Two would be better.  Oh!  The promises that are made during these missives sent skyward.

Like most old men Winter tires easily and finds he must take a little nap.  During this quite respite the daffodils take a peek around; is the coast clear?  Is he gone?  Their golden heads bob and dance in the breeze in an almost goofy manner.  We couldn’t be happier to welcome these village idiots and the Forsythia bushes, unable to contain themselves any longer, burst into the room shouting “Come on everybody!”  Winter stirs in his sleep and sighs a frosty breath.  Tired.  So tired.

Then something happens to the hills.  The trees, millions of them, take on an aura, a glow if you will, just as the one you’d seen in an expectant mother.  You can’t exactly place your finger on what is different, but you can see it.  Well, maybe not see it, but it’s there.  You can at least feel it.  It’s called anticipation and the fifth graders’ prayers change abruptly from snow days to warm sunny days and Easter break.  These prayers are no less fervent than the earlier ones.

Conversations amongst us mere mortals begin to change from “How cold was it last night?” to “Have you seen any Redbuds yet?”  “I wonder how long it will be until the Dogwoods bloom?”  “You know we still have Blackberry Winter to get through.”  “I saw a Willer tree over on Buffalo plumb green yesterday!”  It’s started.  The Daffy Daffodils have finally gotten their word out.

Yes, you can see music.  This is proven every April in southeastern Kentucky with the emergence of the Redbud and Dogwood trees.  If trees could be musical instruments, then these flowering wonders would be violins and cellos.  When they play their moonlight sonata it can take your breath away. Woe to the poor soul that has never seen this symphony of beauty and elegance.  The orchestra starts out with a requiem and slowly, almost unnoticed, transforms into a full on brass band playing an old ragtime tune.  The randomness of Spring is to the eyes what syncopation is to the ears.

Carl Sandburg described the fog in Chicago as arriving “on little cat’s feet.”  We have cats in Southern Appalachia too.  They’re called Spring.  Slow.  Deliberate.  Quiet.  Pensive.  Retreating.  Stealthy.  And finally, finally!  Pouncing on a sleeping Old Man Winter.

Hallelujah! Go get ‘em tiger!

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