I realize this title sounds metaphorical, like this entry could have profound meaning or life lessons involved, but it’s literally merely my thoughts and observations on springtime here. Just wanted to put that disclaimer upfront. Nothing too deep in this entry. But, if you like nature and pretty pictures, then you’re in luck my friend.
Having lived three-quarters of a year now in the South, I’ve discovered that I’ve been spoiled by the year-round greenery present in western Washington. Much to my lament, I learned that the local grass died (or hibernated or did something unfortunate to uglify itself when the temperature dropped). Also, the predominance of deciduous plants caused all the leaves on the trees and shrubs to fall off. Winter here was not particularly cold or harsh, but, in my humble opinion, it was ugly (unless you like lots of yellow and brown, then you probably would have thought it beautiful).
Above Photos: contrast in colors – taken from nearly the same spot, the first in January, the second in April.
Since I’ve complained about it (particularly the grass) in a previous post (and again in this one), I felt that I should spend a bit of time pointing out the how much I’ve enjoyed watching the plants wake-up and re-beautify themselves this spring. I’ve always enjoyed the spring, and Seattle has some beautiful springtime plants: the cherry blossom trees, daffodils, tulips, rhododendrons to name a few. But, maybe because it’s new to me, or perhaps because it has come after such a monotone winter, the Memphis spring has seemed particularly vibrant.
One of the first colorful plants to emerge in early spring were the Eastern redbud trees. I had no idea what they were, just that they were an amazing fuchsia color and I did not recall seeing them before (instantly leading to a very high rating on the DCPA, which I will get to later). I also discovered that posting a picture on Facebook saves me the effort of having to google whatever it is I’m looking at as someone will inevitable recognize it and identify it for me.
These beautiful trees were prevalent for awhile, along with other blossoming trees with the fainter flowers that I am more accustomed to seeing. I was a bit perplexed as to why the redbuds were named as such, since their flowers were clearly in the pink spectrum. But upon closer inspection, the tiny buds where the flowers sprouted did appear red. Still, when viewed from a distance, at no point in its cycle, did the flowering tree appear red. So I still have some qualms with the name, but no one asked me…
Actually, its probably a good thing I’m not involved in naming. Taxonomy has never really been my strong suit. I was a biology major in undergrad. I may have memorized some subclassifications of things for some tests, but rest assured, specific names were quickly forgotten (and open book tests were the best!). I do love discovering different flora and fauna, I just tend to use words I already know to describe things (i.e. Redbud = dainty fuchsia cherry blossom tree). It’s not that I don’t try. I often do look up the name of a novel plant, or bird, or thing I don’t recognize, I just have a skill for near insta-forgetting the word I just looked up (this skill has not helped me in foreign language acquisition).
Thus, I am better served to keep things simple, yet I’d prefer to present my simple ideas in a more complex manner through the use of a flowchart. I also thought it might be a useful life skill to learn to make a flowchart (editor’s note: it was not). In order to understand my affinity for flora, please view the below chart. I think it’s pretty self-explanatory.
Another plant that I enjoyed this springtime was wisteria (obviously, I didn’t know what it was called but my FB friends helped me out). Seeing as this climbing plants was 1. novel to me, 2. a beautiful lavender color, and 3. has a lovely fragrant smell, you can see, through careful review of the above chart, just how exciting I found this plant. So exciting that I made Jeff walk with me across a sketchy, narrow road to further examine a large natural outgrowth of this amazing flowering plant.
After performing some very brief research, I have discovered that this plant will grow in the Northwest, so perhaps I have seen it before… But I feel like it did not grow in large bunches, naturally, as I have observed here in Memphis. But maybe it did, I don’t know. Anyways, I (re)discovered it, and it is beautiful in every sense (except that it can kind of be an invasive species and I may not judge it as such if it were in my backyard).
Another thing I have enjoyed this spring was observing the unique variety of trees and the habitat they grow in. For example, oftentimes there are large areas where tree trunks are underwater, likely due to the low water table and frequent flooding. Though it might be festering grounds for mosquitos and is not the best for my affinity of trail-running, I still find it beautiful. In the Northwest our large trees don’t generally look like they’re growing out of the water, nor have that lovely reflective sheen on the forest ‘floor’.
The variety of trees here has also led me to discover some unique size and shapes. There are some cool windy trees along with vines that wrap around or hang from them. The Northwest has a lot of evergreens, which are great, especially in the winter, but it does have a dearth of vines. (I like using the word dearth. It was a vocab work in middle school and a friend of mine said to me, “dearth reminds me of death, and death is not a lot.” And despite the fact that her statement really doesn’t make any sense, I have never forgotten the definition of dearth). Here, there are vines that hang like Tarzan ropes and vines that form perfect little spirals around a branch or trunk. There are also other interesting things like these giant thorns on this locust tree (again, thanks FB friend for ID-ing this tree type for me):
Now I don’t want to be partial to the flora here, there are some cool animals as well. Okay, to those who grew up in this neck of the woods, these are probably pretty common place and not worthy of much excitement. I feel like this entire post might make me sound a bit like 85-year-old Marilyn Hagerty. Dear Mrs. Hagerty went viral a few years ago for writing a heartfelt and rave review of the opening of an Olive Garden restaurant in her small North Dakota town. Oh well, I’d rather get excited about mediocre and mundane things than not get excited at all…
Anyways, back to another mind-blowing observation I’ve made: There are a lot of turtles here. Yes, I had seen a turtle before, there are turtles in Washington. But they are not nearly as common-place as here. It seems like nearly every body of water (granted most bodies of water are small and stagnant) have a sizable turtle population. They pop up on logs or rocks on nice days to sun themselves then seem to have some innate sensor that causes them to plop back into the pond as you approach to look at them.
Shortly after moving here last summer I saw one crossing the street near my home. It was quite a wide street. He, or she, was nearly across. I was both surprised and impressed. More recently, while running around an outdoor track, I spotted a moving, rusty half-dollar. Since I haven’t seen or used a half-dollar in years, and they generally don’t move, I walked over for closer inspection. I discovered it was a baby turtle, who stopped and pulled its head in once I approached. I scanned around to determine where it had come from and where it was going. It was nearing some grass, but no source of water was nearby. I contemplated picking it up and walking it somewhere but thought, maybe it knew better than me where it needed to go. I ran around the track a couple more times and went over to check on it again but it was gone. I’m going to assume it resumed its valiant journey and made it safely to a new home. That or a bird came and picked it up. I am definitely going with the former though.
I’ve also enjoyed the brightly colored birds out here. There are little blue and red birds that I see all the time near our apartments. I don’t know the names of them and despite many attempts, cannot manage to take a picture of them because they are skittish and fly away. Turns out, I am not a great photographer of birds. I have neither the patience nor the long telescopic lenses necessary to capture our avian friends.
The aforementioned birds are different from cardinals and blue jays. Because they have those here too, and they are beautiful. The Northwest has bald eagles, which are impressive in their size and air of nobility. But cardinals have a spunky crest and are a wonderful bright red color… so it’s hard to say which I get more excited at seeing. Okay, maybe still bald eagles, I mean, it is America’s emblem for a reason. But cardinals are pretty cool too. So are blue jays. Which I thought we had in the Northwest. Until I saw a blue jay here, and asked Jeff, “Ooh, what is that pretty blue bird?” and he replied, “you mean the blue jay?” Then my inner monologue was all like: Wait, that’s not the same as what I saw in the Northwest… but I’ve always called that a blue jay…
Above Images taken from allaboutbirds.org, Macaulay library
I did in fact utilize google on this one, only to discover that what I have been calling a blue jay my entire life looks a lot more like what is called a stellar jay. Turns out, a real blue jay is actually the beautiful white and blue bird that I’ve observed here. I’ve always enjoyed the stellar jays in the Northwest, for their nice addition of color to the landscape (even though they kind of appear to be aggressive jerks to other neighboring creatures). But the actual blue jays are even more glorious as their white highlights make them appear even more vibrant in color (I have not observed their behavior enough to comment on their disposition, I’ll just assume they are lovely all-around).
I have enjoyed experiencing other differences with the changing of seasons here. Compared to where I’ve always lived near Seattle, autumn occurred much later and quicker than I expected. I returned to Seattle in October for a wedding and all the (non-evergreen) leaves were changing at that point. Then I returned to Memphis and the trees stayed green for a few more weeks before up and dying (kind of like Monty Python’s Meaning of Life – Suicidal Leaves skit… which I still find morbidly hilarious). Suddenly everything was yellow and brown. Then, mid-March, spring colors started rolling in and they have come in beautiful waves ever since. The only downside with the return of green and vibrant colors has been the inevitable return of the bugs and heat.
Having never lived in this part of the country before, the changing of seasons from winter to spring has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for me. Almost 2-months ago we started having days in the 70-degree range and I’d think, winter’s over, here comes the warm weather! Then a cold front would roll in and it would go back to the 40’s. Then a few days later, it was beautiful and in the 70’s again, and I’d go through the same thought process. Then the weather would do another 180. Fool me once… or several times… and I decided not to try and figure it out anymore. I would just make sure to look out the window and check my weather ap before going for a run. Would I need to wear a long-sleeve, a tank-top, or run inside on the treadmill because there’s going to be a raging rain and thunderstorm? Although, now that it’s almost May, I think it might finally be safe to say that spring is here to stay. The high’s are more consistently staying in the 70-80s and it’s not cooling off as much.
Well, thus concludes my random thoughts and observations of spring things here in the South. To end, here’s a brief update: We have less than 2-months left before heading back cross-country to return to Seattle. It’s exciting and bittersweet as we’ve enjoyed our time here and tried to settle into the community. I’ll probably have a few more posts. One will definitely be more reflective and attempt to summarize some lessons learned from our time here. Another one will probably summarize our experiences in Nashville, the country-music capital of the world, which we have visited on several occasions.
Thanks for joining us on our journey, or at least scrolling down to see some nice scenic photos.