C.W. Gusewell


Blooms proclaim that we are blessed

Almost overnight, it seems, our city bloomed.

Forsythia has erupted in sudden banks of yellow. Flowering trees – the Bradford pears and magnolias – line the streets like plump, low-hanging clouds of white and pink.

Freeze-burned lawns have greened luxuriantly, with golden daffodils for accent notes, and irises and tulips soon to follow.

I’ve been to some places in this world where people should not be obliged to live – the republic of Sudan, for one. When I was there in 1985 to cover the terrible famine that afflicted that part of Africa, there had been no rain in recent memory.

The sorghum crop, the staple food for humans and animals alike, had failed completely. All across the countryside were the remains of camels and donkeys, dead from thirst and hunger, hides draped like tents over the sad scaffoldings of their bones.

To remember those grim scenes – as in spite of myself I sometimes do – is to be reminded that we’re privileged to live in an urban forest in one of the planet’s sainted zones.

That’s not to say our weather is always perfect.

If there comes a thunderstorm on a day when we’ve planned a picnic, naturally we complain.

One October not many years ago, there was a snow so wet and heavy it broke branches and toppled trees all over town. But our forest has recovered. The damage has healed.

And the region in which we’re situated is virtually ideal for the production of food. Rolling away in every direction beyond the city’s limits are pastures crowded with livestock. Truck farmers regularly bring in a great variety of produce for sale at one or another of the area’s markets.

Homeowners’ individual food plots and neighborhood gardens also contribute to the availability of fresh foods.

And we are largely spared some of the catastrophes that afflict other regions of the country.

Unstable hillsides do not unleash sudden torrents of mud to destroy neighborhoods and leave scores of occupants dead. Located at the junctions of several great rivers, we are subject to occasional floods. But levees and controlled releases from upstream reservoirs help mitigate the damage.

Violent windstorms are perennial spring events here in what’s known, regrettably, as Tornado Alley. So we keep an eye on the sky and stay tuned to the weather. But only once in my memory has a funnel actually touched down here.

Until a week ago the trees and shrubs along our street were barren of any hint of leaf or bud. But just this morning I noticed that, while we slept, the redbud outside our bedroom window had unfolded a cheery wash of color.

A bit later I went out to fetch the newspaper, and on this April day, when a freeze and possible snow are in the next day’s forecast, I found a half dozen bright dandelions and a greater number of brave wild violets speckling the lawn with blue.

To have been born here was a fine accident in which I had no part.

But I have stayed by choice.