March wind waves the blossoming red leaves of the maple, bluebirds and cardinals clinging to the branches as they try to overpower the blossoming red leaves with their own raiment. It’s not yet Easter, but many critters are eager to show off their colors.
Grabbing seeds from the grass, diminutive Dark-eyed Juncos in their white vests and dark gray waistcoats, weave across the yard, among the sparrows and dove, like tiny preachers chasing down sinners in need of salvation. A pair of Northern Cardinals jet through the branches of our Silver Maple, shouting at each other the taunt that has marked boys’ and girls’ spring ritual since time immemorial. “You can’t catch me — yes, I can.”
In the plum tree, Blue Jays scream, mostly, it seems, to hear themselves breath. They have a reputation for bullying, but my backyard observations are that they’re all noise. They politely take their turns at the feeders and sometimes even pick up the scrap seeds scattered to the ground.
Trees wave vigorously like Japanese hand fans, stirring the air into multi-directional March winds eddying among the neighborhood’s abodes, blowing evil disease and spirits from our chambers and across our lawns.
Lawns are a difficult habit to break. Like many other things we do simply because we always have, most of us give little thought to the money we invest — sometimes by law, pretending to channel European kings with our grass-blanketed dooryards. On a trip to Paris a few years ago, I was amazed by the expanse of neatly trimmed grass surrounding and between the mansions of Louis XIV and the “cottages” he built at Versailles for his line of mistresses.
One advantage of being a king is almost no one tells you how many girlfriends you are allowed, and you have no problem finding someone to cut the grass if you decide to walk barefoot with your latest companion. Louis XIV shared the carpeted turf with numerous significant others, including two wives.
Centuries later, we still maintain the practice of building ostentatious residences to reflect our individual wealth, and follow the honored practice of badging them with acres of grassland. Conformity often is enforced by local laws that levy significant fines on those of us who do not adequately groom our grounds.
One might wonder what Adams County looked like before Christopher Columbus, William Penn and John Deere arrived. Anthropologists, armed with tools of genetics, now think the population of this land was halved by the diseases inserted with post-Colombian immigration.
Several times I have been told by local historians that “Indians” did not live in what we have named Adams County, but there is considerable evidence that that Underground Railroad was not the first thoroughfare to industrialization of the South Mountains. The offspring of humans who “invaded” from Asia some 44,000 years ago left their mark in piles of deposits and remnants of chipped arrowheads left by residents before European arrivals to these shores brought with them sparrows, starlings — and lawns.
One might guess those First Peoples, having trekked on foot from the continent’s western regions, would have decorated their houses and other possessions, though we can be fairly confident they did not plant Tall Fescue for the sole purpose of weekly mowing.
Cedar Waxwings — one of the most beautifully colored indicators of spring, have gone from my backyard. They stop here for about a week on their way to their summer residence in the nearby South Mountains. Our Silver Maple, its bright red leaves competing with the resident Northern Cardinals, soon will turn green.
We will plant some vegetables in the back and frame another section of our parcel in a multihued assortment of native posies to pleasure various birds and critters and to celebrate our world and raise families.
What is so special about the color green, anyway?