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Columnists

It’s Spring, Right?

May 1, 2020
By Phyllis ‘Kiki’ Sembos

Of all the seasons, spring is the glorious favorite for most of us excepting for those with allergies. Not that we in the northeast suffered a dreary long, icy winter this year, but it was so grand to see a carpet of purple crocus waving their tiny heads up above the soil and the brave daffodils almost ready to open their golden petals like cups of sunshine. Of course, the temperatures suddenly dropped to a wintery 34 again, but spring, always unpredictable, does that sometimes. Officially, meteorologically, spring begins March 1 in our part of the Earth. Around March 20 is the vernal equinox that marks the astronomical spring. But, it’s still spring in March.

One pretty morning, it was 54 degrees and sunny. Bringing my coffee to the window, I saw the forsythia trees fully bloomed with their bright yellow buds, turning the entire backyard into a true garden, once again. Then, I was astounded. It clouded over. A rainy snow began to fall. No! It was, actually, snowing! Well, it can’t last. It’s spring, right? I’m not a green thumbed gardener, but I try to read up on and find plants that will be successful, plants like heather that show tiny lilac buds even in the snow.  As a kid, the only time I saw trees and greenery was when our mother took me and my brother to Central Park, packed with a small lunch and a pair of roller skates for each of us. I was pretty good. My brother took a while to get the hang of it.

While my husband begins to plant seeds for tomatoes, zucchini, swiss chard, and cucumbers, and herbs like basil, thyme, and dill in egg cartons, I trim the rose bushes, apply fertilizer in and around the various plants and bushes, and check on the fig trees. They haven’t been behaving themselves. So, after a four-year trial, they’ll get no goodies from me. The squirrels didn’t bother with them the first two years because they’d never seen a fig before, now they ransack them when they’ve realized, “hey, they’re pretty good!” After reading pamphlets and listening to the advice the Italians in my neighborhood so generously gave me, the figs still wouldn’t cooperate. The limbs turned moldy, the fruit refused to ripen even in October. I wish I could ship the fig trees to Greece where I know they’ll be happy.

Those bushy-tailed, sneaky little rodents called squirrels pretend to ignore the buds on the two pear trees when all they’re really doing is biding their time until those bulbs look juicy. Then, they form a posse and, like pirates, they come aboard and plunder. I’ve tried netting, spinning fans, paprika, and aluminum wrappings, but nothing!

Once the gardens are tended to and the growing season commences, we hope for the best. All that’s left is to wait. It’s like reading a mystery novel where we await the outcome. The wily squirrels, mindful of the season, inspect the gardens and trees, waiting for the right moment like spies for the CIA. About 5:30 in the morning, a secret meeting forms and pairs of them, huddle and plan the attack. They squat on one branch where they can peer into the wide picture windows to see if I’m around. Then, a shake of the bushy tail signals to the others as – faster than a speeding bullet – they target a plump, purple fruit. They smell it, look at the window again, snatch it and run.  When I see one approaching, I tap at the window to warn him off. He bunches himself up like he’s saying, ‘I didn’t do nothin’. Last year there was only one fig left. I decided it was mine! But, I can’t do guard duty all morning. I woke up earlier than usual and stood by the window where I saw a squirrel near that one fig, making his plans. Seeing me, he put his paws together as if he was praying: “for that which we are about to receive…” Oh, no! In my pjs and bare footed, I ran outside and approached the tree. I searched the branch. He received. Looking up…hey! What happened to the sun? It was here a minute ago. Oh, well, it’s still Spring and I’m going to enjoy it, damn it!

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