Sunday, April 3, 2011

Harbingers of Spring and Memories

SAN DIEGO – Spring is weaving its fabric into the closing days of winter in the Southwest corner.

Monitoring Lebanon weather via the internet and phone calls, I surmise Lebanon too is experiencing spring’s emergence.

Although winter continues in the opposite corner of our country where my brother has returned, we are readying for one of the more glorious times of the year.

The harbingers of spring are subtle in San Diego not as glorious as back in Tennessee. Our weather warms to the mid 60s and low 70s, remaining there until real summer hits in July (we missed that last year with one of the coolest, dampest summer and autumn I can remember). The high and low temperatures vary only by ten to 15 degrees through the seasons.

Although I was in Riverside County about an hour northeast of my home, I played golf Saturday in shorts, an accurate prediction of impending Spring.

Earlier in the week while driving to an appointment, we passed a small home with a yard overflowing in irises. I reminded my wife the iris was the state flower of Tennessee. She thought our state flower was the “bluebell.” I mistakenly corrected her noting it was the Texas’ state flower.

In an ensuing phone conversation with my Austin daughter, I asked Blythe if the bluebells would be blooming in Texas when visited later this month. She laughed and corrected me, pointing out the Texas spring bloomers were bluebonnets, not bluebells. In Texas, “Blue Bell” is the famous ice cream.

Then when I commenced writing this column, I checked my reliable internet and discovered bluebells were indeed a similar flower and common in Western Europe. Internet gardening sites displayed horticulture rage and snobbism over people like me confusing the two.

The importance of these conversations is Maureen should get to see the glory of bluebonnets alongside the Texas roads while we are there.

But in my mind, spring in Texas and the Southwest corner does not match my memories of the glory of the season in Middle Tennessee.

I remember smelling the difference in Tennessee. Warmth had broken through the chill of winter, and suddenly, I could smell the blooms budding. The over-arching trees on the two lane (barely) drive from the concrete arch entrance to Castle Heights to Old Main (now the city offices) were turning green, shading the drive for the next six months.

We would not swim or water ski until May or as late as June, but Henry Harding and I would start wading Barton’s Creek where it crossed Franklin Road to fly fish for brim and sunfish.

All fisherman, including my father (I still have never caught enough fish to be called a fisherman), revved up for the bass and crappie fishing.

With the grass turning green, the brown dirt (or sand) green of Castle Heights’ nine-hole course became prominently visible in the campus southwest corner – now the site of Elmcroft and dental offices.

Down Hill Street, Frank North and Jimmy Allen would guide us through early baseball practice in anticipation of the season opener. Although in the initial practices, our hands would sting from the wood bats striking the ball, being outdoors felt good. Across town in Baird Park, the Blue Devils were likewise enjoying the spring rite of baseball. Members of both teams would meld together for the summer on the American Legion team.

From my recollection, it seems Lebanon simply threw off its winter overcoat and burst into spring. All senses told me everything was clearer, brighter, warmer.

Coming back from baseball practice, we could hear Jimmy Reed blaring over the speaker system for track team practice under the watch of Hugh Russell and Merlin Sanders. The field, now Stroud Gwynn Field in honor of Heights legendary football coach, was unnamed. The track was cinder.

Windows were opened. Screens were checked as they would become a requirement as spring raced toward summer.

Daytime was for being outdoors. That would remain so until the leaves begin to fall on the other side of summer.

Winter turning to Spring in Lebanon is more abrupt than here in the Southwest corner. After being here for almost 30 years, I can recognize the different seasons, but it is difficult for a visitor to do so.

Still, one thing I miss the most is four real seasons, like in Lebanon when Spring began to wake in March.

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