Bringing in May

Posted May 2nd, 2011 by Candice

Virginia has a nifty trick:  it shifts from spring to summer in a single day.  I don’t mean the temperatures.  I’m talking about the landscape.  I start looking for signs of spring at the end of January.  One or two birds will sing during the day.  That’s a sign.  In February the robins and grackles come back.  In March the tight-fisted buds of the pear trees relax and bloom.  By April we can’t keep up with the show.

What I love most about April is the yellow-green mist of new leaves opening in the woods, like an Impressionist painting.  Redbud adds glorious pink strokes, joined by the pure white of dogwood and a drizzle of purple wisteria.  Virginia’s woods are quietly pretty while our yards are louder, bursting with tulips and irises and grape hyacinths and the parade of double-cherry, pink dogwood, and lilacs.

Then someone flips a switch on April 30.  On May first we wake up to fully-leafed out trees, thick vines, and virulent weeds.  It may be 60 degrees, but it looks like summer.  Everything is on stage.

The first weekend in May our farmer’s market opens, too.  My husband and I arrived early, eager for local produce.  Most of the vendors were selling plants–potted annuals, hanging baskets, hothouse tomato and pepper plants ready to set out.  But the big truck gardens also sold the first offerings of the season, strawberries, leaf lettuce, rhubarb, radishes, and spring onions.

It was a gorgeous day to work in the yard.  My husband mowed and weed-whacked and edged.  I had determined that the bird nesting in the wreath on our front door has abandoned the nest and eggs.  I took the wreath down, tipped out the discolored eggs, but saved the nest with its sweet lacing of powder blue yarn and what looked like quilt batting.  I wished the sparrow had stayed.  We did everything we could to keep people off the porch short of shooting them.

I hosed green rivers of pollen off the porch and washed down the furniture.  My husband planted five pink Knockout rose bushes in the empty raised flower bed.  They’re a little shell-shocked now but in a few weeks, they’ll fill the box with pink blossoms.  The azaleas are blooming–I can’t tell you how much I hate these azaleas.  When I bought them 15 years ago, they weren’t in bloom and I was told they were salmon pink, the only color I like.  As you can see they are coral–orange!  Every year I threaten to dig them out.

We labored until we could barely stand.  Did I mention that spring in Virginia is hard work?  Persnickety, the nation’s most difficult cat to photograph, trailed after us, stopping now and then to pounce on the skink that skittered down the rain gutter.  I staggered in the house to make us a supper of stuffed hotdogs (one of my mother’s desperate-dinner recipes) and refried beans and tortilla chips and homemade shortcake for those strawberries.  Earlier that day we had checked out “The King’s Speech” from a Red Box, the first time we’d used one.  We felt like we were knocking over a candy store–it was so easy to get a cheap movie!

We ate in my husband’s sitting room because that’s where the big TV is now, holding plates in our laps.  The last two people in the free world to see “The King’s Speech,” we loved the movie, even with my annoying stream of comments about the House of Windsor, one of the many topics I’m an expert on.  I don’t know why I wasn’t invited to the Royal Wedding.

It felt decadent, watching a movie and eating homemade strawberry shortcake with berries grown locally and not ripened in a truck from California.  Outside, shadows lengthened over our neatly groomed lawn.  One pink rose in the flower bed down front opened its petals and few sly weeds sprouted, chuckling.