Appreciating Spring

ground ivy swathI love the smell of the air in spring. It is so sweet, I just drink it in. It’s like honey, only lighter. I have figured out why the air smells better in spring than at any other time of the year. Every tree and bush that possibly can is blooming, some very inconspicuously and others with showy gusto. Maples have tiny flowers, and oaks have long catkins. There are ornamental cherries and apple trees, and lilacs and lots of bushes and trees whose names I don’t know. All of them are throwing their sweet scents into the air. Anywhere you walk, it smells good, and then every so often you pass a particular shrub, a certain tree, and for a minute the perfume intoxicates you.

The colors are amazing. I’m not even talking about the colors of the flowers, simply the colors of all the leaves and foliage that come back in spring, or that have been around all winter and get highlighted by newly juxtaposed leaves.

The colors of spring are not simply an undifferentiated new-leaf green, they are a subtle, wide-ranging palette of greens and browns and reds. Different shadings of yellow-green, green-yellow, mixed in with greeny-browns and true browns. Deep greens of rhododendrons and evergreens and firs, the latter two with light lime-green tips. Japanese maples, of course, start with red leaves immediately, but other trees and plants start in the red range. The leaves of pink dogwood are deep greeny-pink when they first emerge. Rose bushes have new leaves tinged with red around the edges. Peonies send up their red shoots that later turn green. Other plants start right away with dark green leaves, like the violets that begin with deep green shoots. Day lilies start sending up leaves early, though they don’t bloom until summer. The leaves are a medium green yellow, just a little lighter than iris leaves, which start emerging shortly after the daylilies do.

What also pleases me to see in the spring is the way trees and plants get clothed in their foliage. Driving along the highway this spring has given me a particularly good opportunity to observe this. Trees and bushes don’t come to life fully and thickly leaved. It’s a gradual process, which makes the landscape look like a sponge painting for a few weeks. It appears as if someone has taken sponges of different textures and densities and daubed on the foliage. Some of it is very airy and lacy, while other textures are thicker, richer, more opaque. This, with the wide-ranging palette of shades, makes me feel like I am moving through a living painting.