March and April in Virginia do the back-and-forth on winds and showers. Today March went out like a windy lamb, with temperatures that just grazed 70° here and winds gusting to 33 mph. The showers were yesterday. We got just a few tenths of an inch, while in parts of New England they were deluged with record rains and anticipate record-breaking flooding. Having had our own version of natural cataclysm in December’s and February’s blizzards, I feel justified in taking a “sucks to be you” attitude about all that. No offense, Sandra and Karl; I know you’re on high ground.
On this lamb-like day,then, I saddled up for my first ride in what I’d call “real Spring.” Riding out the right-of-way the other day, I encountered a guy sweeping the asphalt track, crudded with all the fall and winter debris. I just said “thanks for doing that” on the way by, feeling a secret comradeship with him as a fellow trail-lover, having cut away the fallen bamboo that made his work possible. Neighbors, communities, bond by these little private acts of civic consciousness. Today the right-of-way was clear and warm and dry. Ah! At last.
The ride brought rich, pungent Spring smells: the sweet scent of magnolias, the less sweet scent of something that’s in bloom that smells like fish that’s just gone off–not the rank putrescence of full rot, but twelve hours or so, when you know you don’t want to get near it gastronomically, but it doesn’t conjure up the gag reflex either. [To my beloved wife Jane, who thinks that all seafood odors conjure up the gag reflex: No they don’t–for me anyway.] The deep, slightly acrid smell of raw earth turned over in a garden, and the strangely sweet and fulsome odor of composted manure. The odd mixture of deodorant and sweat in passing runners; the odder combinations of perfume, shampoo, diapers, and sweat in walkers and joggers with babies in strollers.
Visual riches were also in evidence, including some magnolias in full bloom; not the large-leaved and gigantic-blossomed ones so redolent of the tropics, and beloved by artists like Martin Heade and Henri Rousseau. No, more the ornamental magnolias, with their prolific but smaller blooms, quite intensely magenta around the edges. Bradford pears and cherry trees are also much in bloom. The former have pure white blooms and an upright growth habit; the latter have an extremely faint pink tinge and an umbrella sort of shape, looking something like a very delicate and impossibly lacy mushroom. And their bark is nearly black. Their petals are beginning to fall, so it’s easy to know the current wind quadrant by the direction in which they scuttle across the trail.
One of my lightweight but long-sleeved jerseys is an intense royal blue. I wore it today. It was not more intense than the royal blue of the sky, all the way down to the horizon. These days are so rare; they generally appear only in the painting of 15th century Venetians. I tend to think “the sky isn’t that color; they’re over-dramatizing it.” But not today; Giovanni Bellini could not have exaggerated the blueness of the sky beyond today’s. The air was in the mid-60s, the considerable wind from NNW. Just enough heat to keep you warm, and just enough breeze to keep you from getting too warm. Perfect.
Today Spring was truly a lamb, with a bit of breeze. I hope for much more of this in April.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2010.