Hominy & Hash
WHEN MARCH COMES MARCHING IN
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- I don't live where Spring bursts out of its comfort zone, that warm, moist place beneath snow-covered soil.
And I don't live where I once lived, anxiously awaiting that little red-breasted bird always nervously twittering around as if to say, "Where is everybody?"
Nevertheless, here in southern Georgia we do have harbingers of
our own. Although we have flowering trees and bushes all year round,
different trees and different bushes, winter dulls our lawns to olive
drab. This week, though, patches of bright green are sprouting up and
in just another week or so we'll officially have Sprung, to coin a phrase.
I've never been a gardener, nor a botanist, nor even someone who sits around the yard taking it all in. If I had to choose between botanical gardens or a library for an afternoon's entertainment, the library would win. Yet I can feel Spring. It must be part of our makeup, the part that alerts us to a new beginning, not unlike opening our eyes to morning after a long night‘s sleep.
Sunday morning two weeks ago, I was ambling along from the furthest parking space in the lot toward the open church door. As I enjoyed the walk and mentally patted my back for "doing something" that could be called exercising, I looked at a huge live oak shade tree, so designated in all tree directories, and decided it had to be 200 years old. They grow to be six feet in diameter and live about 300 years. This one was surely four feet in diameter and could only have grown from a lowly acorn - possibly planted by a young boy, perhaps a slave or the child of a plantation owner. Perhaps both, playing together around 1807.
This road wasn't there; this church wasn't there - but still the small acorn sprouted as it was planted to do and the tree kept growing. I thought of the people who might have walked beneath the gigantic branches that can spread up to a hundred feet across providing shade when summer sun beats down over this small island on the southeast coast of Georgia.
Yesterday was another sunshiny Sunday. I was walking along the same path but something was different: My shadow still followed me, but there was something in the air; it wasn't as silent as the week before. Unseen birds were overhead somewhere in the branches and they chirped and chirped with sounds clear and sharp and even musical. They didn't chirp over each other in a constant chattering but actually to each other. They were having a conversation! I really heard the cheerful sound of birds greeting each other's arrival to the branches they left last fall.
A squirrel started a hasty climb through the deeply furrowed bark and a bird screeched loudly. I didn't hear "watch out! a squirrel is coming," I heard "get down, get down, you squirrel, we're back," and the squirrel scooted across a lower branch, making his descent down the other side of the tree. After a moment's silence, lady bird chirped on. Yes, Spring is here.
The Live Oak Shade Tree is the official state tree of Georgia. Here on St. Simons Island, we are very aware of the majesty in our midst - so aware, developers are kept from cutting them down to make room for their projects. People come from all over to enjoy driving on our roads under the canopy formed by branches reaching toward each other high up and across the road. County tree-trimmers are only allowed to work around power lines and other areas that could possibly pose dangers.
Georgia was one of the thirteen original states, already well-populated when the stately tree was a mere sapling. Oh, the stories that were told and plans for our great nation that were made - oh, if only trees could talk.
It began as a lowly acorn in perhaps 1790 or so. If all things must be tied together, then it was buried very near to where the best cotton in the world was picked, that's Sea Island cotton.
The cotton was always there but until Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin people worked from dawn to dusk - or, as they said: “dawn-see to can't see” - no time for a couple of lads to lollygag around tossing or planting acorns for an afternoon's amusement. Thanks to Whitney, they had time for leisure.
Perhaps the tree can talk - I must have heard this somewhere because I can see that this tree grew for 200 years, even to the day it could offer shade to G8, the group of eight world leaders meeting here in June of 2004.
The first Robin I used to look for can't tell me anything about what's soon to begin - I have harbingers of my own a thousand miles from there. I have the slant of the early morning sun and the days lengthening toward sunset.
We don't really need harbingers, though, do we? We know. We know exactly what's happening. No one has to tell the birds when to fly to their breeding grounds and no one has to tell us it's that time of year again. It's a new beginning and is never the same old thing. Every Spring is a different Spring.
Since we always seem to try to improve upon nature, I'll remind you that this year Daylight Savings Time starts this coming Sunday, the second Sunday in March. Spring ahead! You'll lose an hour, but you'll gain it back the first Sunday in November.
Just think, an extra hour of daylight to do with as we wish. It's true. The best things in life really are free.