It's blossom time. The ornamental flowering crabapple trees are particularly lovely this year.
Serendipitously, I came across an old notebook with a piece extolling the virtues of my own flowering crabapple which stood next to our century and a half old post and beam house in a small canal village. I wrote the passage as we were leaving that place, so I was feeling sentimental about the old tree, and giving thanks for the abundance it had given us during our time there.
I appreciated how every inch of it was covered in fluttering pink blossoms, heady with the scent of cinnamon and cloves. The blossom was followed by vast numbers of small, utterly round fruit, every year without fail; utterly round, cherry red, and hard as rocks. With the coming of frost, the fruit turned cinnabar orange and softened, becoming a perfect winter food for birds. The cedar waxwing host arrived once every winter for a feast. Their red and yellow bars and russet tails accorde perfectly with the fruit, for an effect that was deliciously ornamental. One year a flock of passing evening grosbeaks stripped the whole tree in a matter of minutes, but most of the time, the fruit disappeared gradually, leaving enough for the returning starlings of spring to finish off.
This little tree, only about fifteen feet at the most, was strong enough to bear my adult weight when I clambered through it stringing Christmas lights every year. It was the tree which taught the kids how to climb. The closely spaced branches meant that Tarzans-in-training had nothing to fear. The supreme test of strength for the tree came during the ice storm of 1996. After five days and nights of ice raining from the sky, the tree became a visual expression of the definition of courage as grace under pressure. The bole of the trunk, each cluster of brillian red fruit, and each and every branch and twig, was coated in a layer of crystalline ice a full inch thick. When the rain stopped and the sun came out, little birds sat in the frozen branches, and the tree glistened like the most fantastic crystal chandelier imaginable. The light passing through the ice made it almost painful to look at.
All around us was chaos and destruction. The crown of every maple in the village was split. Driving to town was upsetting. It looked like a war zone, and would continue to do so for years to come. But our dear crabapple was complete; not one broken branch was to be found. I suspect it was because of the bountiful crop it bore each year. The branches were used to carrying a heavy load, and could bend resiliently under the extra weight, rather than snapping. Sweet are the uses of adversity!
Last evening's weather was downright weird. We must have been skirting the edge of a storm. The sky was pink, but it was the dingy pink of a lingerie hem soiled by too many wearings. It cast an odd light on everything, making the budding trees across the lake look for all the world like it was October instead of May. I stopped the car and took a picture.
Then I noticed the rainbow. Like everything else it was a bit skewed by the filter of the pink light. Only two bands were visible, the pink and the orange. It was too ephemeral to photograph; but it had a kind of end of the world feel to it. I found myself in a hurry to go inside!
I was putting out some recycling yesterday when I noticed a commotion in the big mulberry tree by the back door. A robin was flapping about frantically. I walked over and looked up, about twelve feet up. I couldn't quite see how, but he was definitely caught by one foot. Initially, as I got close, he panicked and started flailing around, but when I stood still, he relaxed and just hung there upside down. While part of my brain worked on how to get up there and see if I could help, another part appreciated the elegant curve of his neck and beak. I would have loved to take a picture of that, but it would have made me feel like a reporter in a disaster zone, talking rather than assisting.
He was out near the end of the branch, so there was no possibility of climbing out there. I needed something tall to try to pull the branch down to a manageable height. Somewhere in the chaos that is the garage there was a long handled pruning saw. I called for Nick, explained the situation and asked him to get the saw. (I don't go into the garage--if you could see it, you would know why). He had a better idea. He found a long aluminum pole under the deck, part of some previous contraption. As luck would have it, it had a bent spike through one end. He hooked that over the main branch on which the robin was trapped, and hauled downward.
As the bird came towards us, we could see that his foot was caught in some very fine string. Evidently he'd been on a nest-building expedition that had gone wrong. Handing the pole over to me, Nick went to the kitchen. It took all my strength to hold that thing down. The robin was terrified. I could see his brick red chest rising and falling rapidly. Nick came back with one of our longest kitchen knives, and with the surety of Alexander cutting the Gordion knot, he sliced through the strands. In a flash of wings, the robin was gone.
Today, I keep checking all the birds in the yard to see if one is limping, but he seems to have made a full recovery. All's well that ends well.