Monday, April 23, 2007

Spring Interrupted

Three weeks ago we were in the midst of a beautiful, lush, early spring. Lilacs and crabapples were in full bloom, redbuds were past prime with their blooms, and even the later-leafing prairie trees like honeylocust and green ash were throwing caution to the wind with fresh, young leaves. The wheat, likewise throwing off damage from cold in January and February, was vivid green and lush, 6" deep and full of promise.

Then I went to San Antonio to visit our daughter for a few days. While I was gone, Old Man Winter decided that it was time to crash this party and descended with rather a vengeance. Two nights in a row it got down to 25 degrees, followed a day or two later by an inch or so of snow. (We were actually lucky it was only 25 degrees, since the forecast was for 17. And areas north of us reportedly received as much as 8" of snow.)

I came home to a sickly yellow-green world, with little color remaining. It's been 2 1/2 weeks and the plants are only now beginning to recover.

The wheat still looks awful, ranging from yellow-green to pure yellow, where water has been standing. (This sure has spotlighted sites of old prairie potholes, though, showing vividly where farmers have plowed through traditional ephemeral wetlands.)

The lilacs actually came through with minimal damage. The damage that did occur was confined to those branches that were exposed to the worst of the northern winds. In the sheltered areas, they looked amazingly good.

The honeylocust is finally releafing, albeit sparsely and without the healthy color of before.

And, unfortunately, the only green ash leafing out is the one that hadn't started leafing out at all yet. The others are still simply full of crispy, brown, dead "new" leaves. I know they'll make it, they'll just be very late this year.

I started to ask why the death or disruption of young life seems particularly harsh...but realized that death and disruption at any time is difficult to accept, even if it is part of life's natural cycle. Maybe our language is just too poor to capture the nuances of our dismay over the loss of life at different stages - perhaps we should coin separate words for the loss of potential for more life that occurs when something young is killed or maimed as opposed to the loss of the current reality that occurs when something fully mature is injured or dies.

Trees, fruit, flowers...people. Of course, I'm extrapolating to human life here too. And at the moment I'm mourning for all the potential that has been lost: fruits and flowers that will not appear as expected throughout this spring, summer and fall; adult people who will grow up warped and twisted because of harm that occurred when they were young...or who will never be able to grow up at all.

We can just hope that at least some of the current young who have been harmed will survive despite that harm, and that they will be able to develop strong, healthy lives. They may not be the most gorgeous of specimens, but they will certainly have a special beauty all their own.

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