February is a month of ice and snow for many areas in the United States. It is also a time of muddy
slush, brown grass, bare trees, skies the color of pewter and clouds resembling sad, gray dust bunnies. Last night’s news reported wind-chill temperatures for sections of Minnesota were in the minus 40-degree range.
But not in Cambria! The nearly 10 inches of rain we’ve been granted so far have produced a fresh crop of winter grasses and wood sorrel. How easily I remember the treasured halcyon days when my children were young and the world belonged to them. Each day and season brought new and exciting experiences to these most precious kids. Whether playing in the area alongside our house or camping in the Sierra, a stem of sour grass would be dangling from their lips as they explored the world around them.
The most abundant and ubiquitous bright yellow flowers found in our area at this time of year is the wood sorrel. Its display is usually met with mixed emotions — love and hate. As a friend once commented, “I love to see the bright yellow flowers, but not in my backyard.” Alas, even the delightful wood sorrel is relegated to the despised list of NIMBY. Perhaps you are more familiar with its common name: Oxalis, from the Greek word oxus, “sharp,” sour.
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It won’t be long before
the pine trees begin “candling.” Spring shoots on branches are called candles because of their upward form. This pollinating process results in anything found outdoors will soon be covered in a fine yellow dust — pine pollen. This is also the time of year when the sound of sneezing echoes through the forest. Rain puddles soon acquire a necklace of gold … well, at least a necklace of yellow.
The verdant, undulating hills of the Middle Kingdom are enough to warm the heart of anybody from the Emerald Isle. The lush green, joined by blue skies and huge white clouds, make me long to lie on my back and fly a kite. “Look, I see a giraffe in that cloud;
and that one over there looks just like a teddy bear.” But with the ground so damp and cold, I think I’ll wait a bit longer before flying a kite.
And everywhere you look, the eruption of sour grass on the hills and vacant lots brightens even the grayest day with its bright yellow flowers. This harbinger reminds us that spring is coming.
Writers of columns have even been moved to compose droll prose in tribute.
I once had an ox named Alice
who claimed she had no malice.
“Keep me out of your soup –
I know C. Everett Koop.”
So said my ox, Alice.
E-mail John Brannon at firstname.lastname@example.org