Handymen

It all began, as most things do, with something simple.  One night a couple of months ago our refrigerator leaked a little bit of water onto the kitchen floor.  It had done that a couple of other times too.  The icemaker had been giving us trouble for a couple of years, producing ice cubes erratically, many of them hollow.  The water would leak out into the ice cube storage bin rather than going into the ice cube maker, making a solid frozen block and jamming the dispenser.  Occasionally water would run out of the icemaker, down the front of the fridge, onto the floor.  But the week after it leaked a little bit, it leaked a lot.  And when we went down to the basement we saw just how much more.  Water had been seeping all night through the kitchen floor to form a couple of big pools in the basement.

So we set the ice cube sensor to “off,” turned off as best we could the flimsy shutoff valve in the refrigerator water line, and contemplated our next move.  The fridge was 15 years old, so repair seemed futile.  After checking the internet and a couple of stores, we determined what we wanted as a replacement: a GE model with “French doors” and an ice and water dispenser.  We bought it and set the delivery date for December 9, a safe four weeks away, well on the other side of Thanksgiving.  Best Buy gave us stern warnings about measurements, complete with online videos explaining just what we had to measure, and reminding us that all passages from outside to the installation site had to allow for the passage of this 375-pound brute.  We discovered right away that our model, like all standard refrigerators, needed 2” more clearance than we had under our built-in kitchen cabinets.  The standard height of refrigerators had moved up almost 3” since the cabinets were originally installed 22 years ago.

I’d had to take off ¾” when the now-dying Amana had been put in, but this called for a skilled woodworker to take out the old cabinet, reshape it to allow the right amount of clearance, and not completely destroy the look of the doors, which are paneled.  Meanwhile, things kept happening.  One morning our toaster oven just didn’t work.  Jane discovered boards in the façade of our circa 2002 garage/bedroom home addition that were rotting out, thanks to an apparent flow of rainwater down the façade rather than through the gutters.  And a potentially serious plumbing leak developed in our master bathroom.  We needed help; we started calling handymen.

Aside from just junking the old toaster oven and buying a new one, the master bath problem seemed to be the easiest to solve.  We had a plumbing contract along with our HVAC contract with United AirTemp.  One of their guys came out to look at the master bathroom leak.  The culprit was a faucet in one of the twin wash basins.  Installed 14 years ago, the design model by Kohler was now obsolete (and its polished bronze finish no longer quite in vogue).  But the faucet was irreparable, so we had to choose another.  Obviously we didn’t want to replace all the hardware in the room, so we sought a similar design.  The plumber kept talking about the one we wanted “or something comparable,” gave us a major invoice that would cover the replacement of the faucet with that “something,” and said he’d be in touch.  We called the next morning to affirm the faucet we wanted, and to say that the (Moen) one identified on the invoice was not suitable.  But of course we couldn’t talk to the plumber or his supervisor; the person on the phone would relay the message and one of them would call back.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, I needed a woodworker.  On impulse I called the guy who installed the cabinets 22 years ago.  It was like old home week!  The voice on the phone was the brother of the one who actually put the originals in.  Larry was retired and in Florida, but Bob would be glad to do the job, even such a small one.  He’d send a carpenter up from Lorton to look at it tomorrow.  Great that we remembered their work!  We skipped a weekly Church meeting to accommodate their schedule, because the refrigerator delivery loomed.   Time came; no carpenter.  Called the next day, and the staffer said both Bob and the carpenter were on a job, but they’d call back later that day.  No call that day; they still haven’t called.

As soon as they broke the appointment I began calling alternatives; we needed that work done before the December 9 delivery day.  Angie’s List seemed totally intimidating, with so many options, not all in our part of the metro area.  So we tried HomeAdvisor, a site where you describe the job, give them your zip code, and they give you three prime references that you can call or have contact you.  We got two calls right away, and set up an appointment with the first one for the next day.  Guess what?  No show.

By this time we were getting to feeling a bit vulnerable.  Calls unanswered, not one but two potential water leaks in the house, kitchen currently unfit to receive new fridge.  I finally called AirTemp, whose plumber had not called about the faucet despite follow-ups from me, with the ultimatum that if we did not have an appointment to install the faucet we wanted by the end of that day, I would cancel the entire invoice.  (My alternative plan was to buy the faucet at Home Depot and hire an out-of-contract plumber to install it.)  Mirabile dictu!  An appointment was made for early the following week, and the faucet design we wanted would be provided.  We had a feeling that the alternative they offered was cheaper for them to acquire.

As for the cabinet, I retried Home Advisor, got two new names plus the one who blew off the appointment before.  Figured he had work, checked the other two online, and called them both.  The first to respond was Bermudez Construction.  The estimator was there the next evening; he gave a thorough analysis of our outdoors rot situation as well as the cabinet job.  He talked about his methods and pricing, and we came to an agreement.  The work was to be done eight days in advance of the delivery date for the fridge.  He had to push that date back a couple of days because of complications on a prior job, but he assured us about our deadline.  He came with one assistant and did everything expertly in one day.  Aces!

In the course of his initial assessment, however, he moved the refrigerator, and it started leaking.  Oh, no!  We needed immediate plumbing.  This time, however, AirTemp came through.  A different plumber came to assess this problem, and returned the next day to put a modern, sturdy shutoff valve in the line to the fridge.  This job was covered in our contract.  And we were assured we’d meet Best Buy’s expectation of a strong, stable water supply for the fridge installation.

The Bermudez inspector had found another interesting thing, however: a white-faced hornet nest on the back of our house.  Naturally we called our pest control contractor, who came and removed it a couple of days later.  (See earlier blog for hornet details.)

Meanwhile, the other AirTemp plumber came back a few days later to install the new bathroom faucet, which went without incident, except that he had to get a helper to come in to loosen the old one from its mooring.

By December 9, everything was ready for the refrigerator delivery.  These new monsters are so big (36” wide, 34” deep, and 69” high) that they routinely have to remove the fridge doors to get them through standard entryway home doors.  Surprisingly, the two installers lifted the unit with straps, not a dolly, which made maneuvering in the tight right-angle turn from hall to kitchen easy.  Sure enough, the cabinet space gap was just right, and the new water line attachment was made with flexible hose rather than squiggly thin copper tubing.  In 90 minutes the old one was gone, and the new one humming away to cool itself down.  With all our refrigeratable food stuffed into the garage backup fridge and on the cool screen porch, cooling couldn’t happen too soon.

After only five weeks, eight different handymen, eight handyman visits, and about twenty phone calls, our house was not rotten, did not leak, did store and freeze perishable food, and had no white-faced hornet nest attached.  And there was still a little time for the quiet contemplation of the Advent season.  Amen!

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2016

The Bald-Faced Hornet

The other day we were doing a quick walk-around of the house with a handyman.  We’d hoped to hire him to take care of a couple of relatively minor yet urgent jobs—and we did so.  But while surveying the back yard we noticed a bees’ nest.  Tucked up against the edge of the sunroom, attached to the downspout, gutter, and facing board, was a big gray papery mass.  We assumed this must have been built over the last couple of weeks.  We’re out in the back yard pretty regularly in the summer, even when it is persistently hotter than normal like this year.  It wasn’t perfect porch weather, but we’d spent significant time there, in a place from which one could have seen the nest easily.  We’d mowed, watered, picked basil and rosemary, and raked out there.  The nest couldn’t have been there very long.

Bald-Faced Hornet

A Bald-Faced Hornet, so called because of the white markings.

Since we have a pest control contract to ward off carpenter ants, termites, chipmunks, and other pests (sadly it does not cover white-tailed deer, the pest of pests in our neighborhood), we called the contractor the next morning.  A meeting time was set up for the following day, and at the appointed hour Nixon, our main man, who I reckon to have been born between 1968 and 1974, arrived.  Nixon knows about all sorts of critters, and he took one look at our nest and said “Bald-Faced Hornets.”  We thought he said “Bold-Faced,” which would serve equally well.  He sprayed as a precaution, though he doubted that there were any live bees there.  “But it’s been there only a couple of weeks,” we explained.  Nixon took the nest down, gaining access by our stepladder.  There were many layers of papery gray sheets, with the asymmetrical yet harmonious shapes of so many natural objects built by living creatures.  They left a pattern on the siding; I’ll need to go back and wash them off soon.  Inside the torn-open structure the brood cells lay bare, caps gone, empty.  The last hornets had departed long since.

nest

The nest on our house

Clearly we had just not seen the nest for the several months it had been there.  Looked at it, probably, when it was full of activity, with hornets passing in and out of the large hole near the bottom on the side facing away from the house.  But never saw it. It’s hard to imagine being so oblivious to such a vivid and dangerous life center in our own yard.  On YouTube are several videos in which people try to stir up a hornet’s nest, and for the next several minutes the camera, many feet from the person taking the picture, is under constant attack by angry, buzzing, stinging insects.  Turns out Bald-Faced Hornets are very common, even though I’d never heard of them before.  They are actually a type of yellow-jacket, not a true hornet.  They are very aggressive and persistent in chasing off attackers.  They eat other insects, including yellow-jackets, and in the fall they die off, except for young fertile queens, who hibernate and breed new colonies in the spring.

Later that day, Jane observed a Downy Woodpecker pecking away intensely at the place where the nest had been attacked.  I figured that the bird was probably attracted to whatever small vermin had been left behind when the nest was removed.  The following day on my walk I heard a pecking noise up in a nearly leafless maple tree.  Sure enough, there was a big, beautiful Bald-Faced Hornet nest, hanging from a limb free and perfectly formed.  On it was a Downy Woodpecker hammering away.  A week earlier the sight would have meant nothing to me.  But then it seemed like a train of thought had come full circle, that I understood a little more about my world than I had before.

© Arnold J. Bradford, 2016

 

Back On My Bike

Coda

Jamis Coda Comp, my basic ride while in recovery. That is a 52-tooth chainring.

The British cyclist Tom Simpson is credited with the heroic, never-say-die plea “put me back on my bike.” Simpson was ascending Mont Ventoux in Provence during the Tour de France on Friday, July 13, 1967. It was one of Ventoux’ boiling hot days. Only a few kilometers from the top, out among the bare quartz boulders, Simpson fell to the road, a victim of dehydration, the heat, amphetamines, and the alcohol he had stopped to grab in the town at the foot of the mountain. Bystanders did put him back on his bike, though he may have only gasped “on, on, on.” But the thought was there. He wobbled a few hundred feet and fell again. He died on the airlift to the hospital, his internal body temperature a fatal 108°.

I have not been quite that desperate to ride, nor quite as heroic. The last time I was on my bike before today was May 3. By that time I had completed three of my prescribed nine weeks of radiation treatment, begun on April 13. I’d ridden my familiar 20+ mile routes twice since then, albeit at a somewhat slower pace. But on that first Sunday in May the roof kind of caved in. Two miles into the ride, I felt overwhelming fatigue. I rested at the little park next to Maple Avenue in Vienna, amazed at my lack of stamina. Reasoning that it was probably just a temporary reaction, I continued on after 15 minutes of recuperation. I got as far as Hunter Mill Road, about 5 ½ miles from home. I had to rest once more halfway there, and again at the road crossing. Realizing I’d been foolish to get myself out there in my condition, I got myself back home very slowly. That was the end of my bike riding for 10 ½ weeks. I couldn’t get my body out of first gear, and the thought of going anywhere by bike was unfathomable.

Until today. There have been a few days in the last couple of weeks when I’ve felt a little stronger again. And today was a beautiful, cool, clear, low humidity day. In his The Vision of Sir Launfal, James Russell Lowell wrote “And what is so rare as a day in June? / Then, if ever, come perfect days.” Not so fast, Jimmy boy. Today was pretty rare, too. And I’m talking northern Virginia in hot, hazy, humid July. Furthermore, I had just spent an hour watching the Tour de France charge up the mountain-top finish at Plateau de Beille. I figured that if those guys can spin uphill on wet, rainy roads at nearly 20 mph, I ought to be able to chug along the relatively flat bike trail for a bit.

For the first time in 2 ½ months, I couldn’t wait to get my gear on and take off. I was revved up, excited to be back in the saddle. I determined to go as far as I could, to turn back at the first sign of exhaustion or weakness, but in any case to go no farther than Hunter Mill Road. I know that athletic recovery has to be managed carefully and methodically. There’s no point in rushing things to the point that you suffer a setback and have to begin again. A body with 75 years of wear on it needs more time to get back into shape; no part of my frame was used to riding any more—not my arms, not my quads, not my calfs, not my butt. My motto: “go for it but go easy.”

I rolled down Academy Street, geared down for the incline up Jackson Parkway, hung a left up the paved right-of-way, and hung another left to roll westward on the W&OD Trail. Up and over the little hill between our house and Vienna. Check. Past the place I had to stop in the town of Vienna. Check. Feeling strong. Out past the old railroad station, along the park area to the west of town, over the bridge at Piney Branch, past the dead end of Clark’s Crossing Road, past Tamarack Park, over Angelico Branch, and stop at Hunter Mill Road. Check, check, check, check, check, check, check. I felt good enough to go on, but caution and common sense were in control, and I turned back. About halfway along I realized that I was beginning to feel a little weary, and was pleased that I had recognized the need to set limits. As always, I felt euphoric, better when I got back that I’d felt when I left.

Tomorrow is going to be another rare day. Wild horses couldn’t hold me back now! I’m going to . . . Oh, wait. I’m going to consult closely with my legs and my cardiovascular system tomorrow morning before doing anything rash.

© Arnold J. Bradford, 2015

Thoughts While Cycling

  • My last two rides have involved rolling down the concrete of our brand new driveway.  We’re having cement work done, and it’s been a long job, contracted at considerable expense.  The workers came a week ago Tuesday, and probably won’t be done until the end of this coming week.  But the driveway is a beautiful new thing, easy to back out of from either side.
  • Yesterday I saw a doe, a deer, a female deer, standing by the side of the trail.  She was youngish, and worse yet completely unafraid of me.  I would never characterize any deer as “curious”; they all seem a bit dim.  And they’ve been doing their annual number on our backyard plantings.  This one seemed characteristically incurious as I zoomed past.  She just sized me up in case I looked like a hosta-planting kind of guy, which I guess I must.
  • I am very happy about the apparent victory in the Tour of Spain (Vuelta Ciclista a España) by American cyclist Chris Horner, who calls Bend, Oregon his home.  The Vuelta is the third hardest stage race in the world, and well suited to Horner’s skills.  He does especially well on steep gradients, and the Vuelta offers some of the steepest in the world.  Today’s course, on the last stage before the ceremonial closing race tomorrow, featured sections of 15% up to 21% on the final climb.  Going into today, Horner led Vincenzo Nibali by all of 9 seconds.  Today he put 28 seconds into Nibali, all during the steepest final kilometers.  So he now has an unchallengeable 37-second advantage.
  • Horner gives hope to all of us older guys.  He’s now 41 (older than Lance Armstrong), and is riding as well as he has at any time in his bad-luck- and injury-prone career.  He wore corrective bandages throughout this race to help rectify lingering muscular problems from a bad knee injury that has kept him out much of the year since late spring.  But he seems to have been able to build upon a couple of strong domestic performances late this summer and arrive at the Vuelta in prime condition, at a time in the race calendar when most European riders, including his rival Nibali, have lots of kilometers in their legs.
  • My joy in his victory would be less subdued if there weren’t that lingering doubt about PEDs.  How can this guy be beating riders that he is old enough to have fathered, in some cases, when most such geriatric pros have waned or retired?  Except for his hard-man, formidable teammate Jens Voigt, who turns 42 in three days.  But Horner’s biological passport must have passed muster or he wouldn’t be riding at all.  So hats off to Chris Horner, now on top of the cycling world!

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2013.

June is Bustin’ Out All Over

june havoc

June Havoc, younger sister of Gypsy Rose Lee.

No! No! No!  Not that June; not that bust.  But the Rogers and Hammerstein lyric from Carousel does affirm the explosion of spring beauty, even if here in Virginia it’s late spring.  We’ve had an erratic season of persistent coolness, followed by summery heat and humidity in short bursts, all punctuated with lots of rain, including a visit from an unusually early tropical storm (no wind, just humidity and downpours) late last week.  I took an urban naturalist stroll of our quarter-acre estate the other day and was stunned by the way the combination of heat, rain, and humidity seemed to have brought everything into its glory at once.  It is an especially good year for roses, and the various forms of hostas we use in our shade-heavy yard are energetic and splendid as well.  A couple of low-growing late azaleas add their charm, and our active fern population is very much in evidence.

We finally have completed our porch and patio plantings as well, though the weather has

porch

Porch plantings

not been conducive to lots of porch sitting.  Every year we fill pots and planters with impatiens and begonias to line the sills so that the big screen porch in back will have that garden feel.  This year, thanks to a wilt disease that is destroying the impatiens in our area, it’s all begonias.  We put geraniums in the pots on the front porch on either side of the door.  And on the brick patio in back we have just completed the replanting of the octagonal garden in the center, which used to contain the trunk of a very large Willow Oak.  We had to have that cut down a couple of years back because it was too near the house, and just last fall we had the stump ground out by a tree service using an amazing remote

octagon

Octagon Project and repaved patio

control machine.  We had to haul off 20+ wheel barrows of earth and wood chips to a pile in the back corner of the lot, reconstruct the octagon border, and re-lay many bricks on the patio, but we salvaged most of the incredibly durable vinca minor (periwinkle) that had been growing around the stump, and now it thrives in the octagon, along with some begonias and a potted geranium.  For the first time in a very long time the patio is flat and coherent-looking.

So enjoy my visual report on our flora:

minirose

Jane’s miniature rose bush–coming into its own.

mocko

Variegated mock orange, beloved of small cerulean blue butterflies.

fern

Fern frond–an answer to seedbud’s question.

wildroses

Wild roses, growing by or side fence and up into the holly trees.

azalea

Low-growing azalea bush just covered with bloom.

Variegated hosta, growing where the sun never shines.

Variegated hosta, growing where the sun never shines.

whiteaz

Azaleas, whiter than the driven snow.

thyme

Thyme, thyme, thyme is on my side, yes it is, yes it is.

hosta

This hosta has claimed its shady plot.

Odyssey

Between a glum, drizzly first week and a glorious Greek Island cruise later on, May has provided few opportunities for cycling.  I find myself at the end of the month facing the challenge of working my way back into shape from a mediocre level of conditioning.  Each ride is one step closer to good form, but I want to take it slow so that the process involves recovering what I had a month ago rather than damaging joints, tendons, and muscles by pushing them too hard, thus making the recovery longer and more painful.

sea

The wine-dark sea!

Today’s ride was supposed to be routine, but it turned out to be a minor Odyssey.  One of the thrills of our vacation was to travel on that same wine-dark sea that carried Homer’s Achaeans to Troy and home again.  Homer also recounts the long convoluted return of one of the warriors, Odysseus of Ithaca, who spent ten years getting home while his faithful wife, Penelope, wove and unwove a tapestry to keep her suitors at bay.  There were unforeseen adventures all along the way.

Departure
When I started out this morning, something wasn’t right.  It was the first time I had ridden the Trek since I had to change the rear tire.  Talk about good fortune—I was getting ready to ride one day about three weeks ago when I checked the rear tire only to find a gash right down to the threads.  I switched bikes that day, and changed the tire a day or two later, having bought one on sale some time before “just in case.”  (The Forté Pro+ tires I use are not being made in blue right now, but I found one in a store and got it on sale).

But today when I sailed down Academy Street and around the corner at the bottom there was an annoying “click” that I could swear was coming from the rear wheel.  It was synched to the rpms of the wheels, not the pedals.  So something was hitting the wheel every time around.  I dutifully rode back up the hill and checked everything out.  I took me a good five or six minutes to realize that the source of the sound was the front wheel, specifically the magnetic pickup for the bike computer on the fork.  It had been pushed too close to the wheel, so that the little magnet clamped to one of the spokes was hitting it on the way by.  Must have gotten pushed out of adjustment while I was installing the rear wheel with the new tire.

Easy fix, on my way.

Monster McMansion
Within the first two miles of my ride inbound on the W&OD there is a short, steep rise in the Trail where it skirts Idylwood Park and ascends to Virginia Avenue just inbound from Hurst Street, where it overpasses I-66 on the sidewalk.  (Many cyclists, it must be said, use Virginia Avenue for this little stretch, because the “Trail” here is no wider than a residential sidewalk and poses a real risk of collision with pedestrians and/or homeowners.)  As I was on the last part of the ascent along the park I looked up and gasped to see something that had not been there last time I rode by—the huge bulk of a McMansion at the top of the hill, on the far side of Virginia Avenue.  It was already clad in plywood sheathing, awaiting its Tyvek (which, according to its maker, DuPont, is not a mere product but a “weatherization system”).  What an archetypal symbol of the modernization of old suburbia.  The house that was on this property had been built more than half a century ago, when Falls Church was an outer suburb.  It sat back from the road at the end of a gravel driveway, in a dell, surrounded by a cluster of trees.  It was modestly brown, barely visible from the road.  In those days Idylwood Park was a dairy farm, whose family owners delivered milk by foot to neighborhood customers.  There was no I-66, though for a decade in the 1960s and 70s there was a cleared right-of-way that became a home for riding trails and wild blackberries while the building of the highway was in court.  Long ago, the same ridge had supposedly been a vantage point from which John Mosby’s raiders spied on the Union rail activity on the W&OD line.  Now the suburban atmosphere is being modernized through the widespread practice of the “teardown,” in which an older, modest middle-class home on a decent-sized lot is razed and a lot-filling “upwardly mobile” home, probably with five bedrooms, four or five baths (including the obligatory master bath large enough to service a harem), wet bar, kitchen with granite-topped island, and (ironically) a “two-car garage” that will barely accommodate a pair of Priuses.  Hope the eventual owners like the sound of soccer games from the park and the look of cyclists on their treks on their Treks.

Toe Clip
I discovered as my ride continued that my right toe clip was giving me problems.  I couldn’t reliably get my foot in all the way so that the ball of the foot would rest directly on the pedal.  At first I thought the problem was that the strap was not in place properly because one of the holders had worn through.  I stopped and re-inserted the strap, but the problem continued.   I rode with it for a while, but finally stopped again and found that the strap had been tightened so that the opening was too small to accommodate my shoe correctly.  Easily fixed.  But how did this happen?  Was this too a result of my efforts to reinstall my rear wheel when the new tire had been mounted?  Puzzling.

Snapping Turtle
The W&OD skirts Four Mile Run through Arlington, much of it in a parkland called “Bon Air Park.”  Along the way there’s a little pond created by damming up the Run and used to control drainage, which has become the home of much aquatic life, flora and fauna.  There’s a small overlook where a rider can stop and watch for turtles, frogs, and fish, as well as water lilies and other plants, and aquatic birds.  Somewhat west of that spot, but along Four Mile Run, I came upon a woman today who was standing in the trail pointing at a turtle.  Now I do see turtles, mostly box turtles, on the W&OD.  But this was not that—it was a Snapping Turtle.  It was perhaps 20-22” overall, with a shell about 15” long and the rest accounted for by head and tail. First one I’d ever seen on the trail, though I know they’re capable of traveling a good distance from water on land.  The beak seemed to suggest it was big enough to perform efficient digital amputation surgery.  I slowed a bit, passed both her and it on the left, said “It’s a Snapping Turtle.  Don’t touch it” and went on my way.

Throwing the Chain
For the last few months the Trek has had a tendency to throw the chain on occasion when I shift into the big crank gear.  I thought I’d fixed it a few weeks back by a minor adjustment.  But today as I crested the climb of Patrick Henry Drive right after it crosses Washington Boulevard and roared downhill, when I shifted to the big gear the chain came off.  I coasted to the bottom of the hill, and luckily the spot was shady and cool.  There’s a bike lane on the street, and a parking lane too, so I was out of harm’s way as I worked at the curb.  Usually all I have to do is find a stick to pull the chain back over the gear and slip it back on, but the nearby properties were so well maintained that there were no sticks to be found.  I had to get out my bike tool and use it.  The chain in this case was also pinned between the cogset and the chainstay.  So I had to manipulate the rear derailleur and get the chain on a lower gear.  By the time I was finished fiddling around my fingers on both hands were greasy.  I cleaned up, mopped off the sweat from myself and my sunglasses, and was off again.  I wondered what had happened to what I thought was an adjusted drivetrain.  Could putting on a rear wheel be the cause of this, as well as all the other equipment problems?  I was more careful when I shifted into the big gear, but before I got home I forgot once, and I threw the chain again.  That time it was much easier to fix because I found a good stick.

Return
When I finally got back I had had a great ride in nice warm (but not overly humid) weather.  Best of all, my wife was not fighting off suitors and my cat recognized me immediately.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2013.

Magic Week

Our chilly March weather and the sudden explosion of warmth a week ago, when the temperature hit 91˚ at National Airport, have created a compression of spring flowers.  Daffodils came out early and lingered in the cool air for weeks.  Cherry blossoms were delayed, then burst out all at once about April 7th and 8th, then got swept away within a week by winds and rain, so that they were all gone by the Cherry Blossom Parade on the 13th.  While the Cherries were still out the Dogwood and Redbud started.  The Redbud is now fully out, the Dogwood (which takes a while) is making good progress, and our Camellia bush is adorned with the first few of what promise to be a plethora of gorgeous flowers.  One of the Azaleas by the front porch is even beginning to get into the act already.  So while the early blooms got pushed back, the later ones were encouraged to come early: convergence!

It’s also Magic Week.  That’s what I call the gorgeous ten days or so when the deciduous trees leaf out.  They come so close after one another that right now they are all in some stage of leafing.  And for this magic tenuous ethereal span of days they are all different colors of green, rust, and brown.  All too soon they will be undistinguishable, a uniform shade of “full summer green.”  But right now their delicate, graceful hues form a subtly variegated landscape.  The skyline depicted below is visible from my yard.  Two weeks hence it will be barely recognizable.  The mutations of the spring season are as rare and evanescent as moments of human childhood: eternal in their value; fleeting in their existence.

treescape

Treescape in shades of spring

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2013.