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Hope springs eternal this time of year

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POSTED: April 19, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Photo by Raven Waters/

A bumblebee pollinates a wild azalea in the south Georgia spring.

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If I can be so bold as to name a time of full glory for Georgia, spring is it.
Here, azaleas are loud with fuchsia, pink, magenta and flame. Sweet shrub, coral honeysuckle and dooryard quince are wildly extravagant in their blooming. Phlox turns patches of ground lavender. Wild cherries and sassafras are blooming, one wide open, one timid.
The beauty is like a drug. You want to quit working. You want to sleep and read and rest and laugh and watch the breeze ripple the clothes on the line. A trip to the mailbox is dizzying -- the air is full of fragrance and the private lives of birds. I bring the mail to the rocking chair on the porch, wind murmuring in the pines, where I find myself an hour later, the mail read but me dreaming, listening to the brown thrasher chicks whose mother has built their nest two feet outside the porch screen.
The problem is with the season's length. If I am honest, I admit that spring lasts about two weeks, a wildly glorious fortnight.
Every day something new unsheathes, first purple violets in the yard and longleaf pine anthers. Then pollen mists the air and Chickasaw plums bloom. The sun rises more due east, between certain oaks along the fence-row.
One year on March 31, a chuck's-wills-widow, a buff-brown nightjar whose song is often mistaken for a whippoorwill's, called from the edge of the field. It had freshly arrived from Florida. I was excited to hear it and hoped it would stay, but I didn't hear it again.
I wasn't sure which day the kestrel, which had perched on a certain wire for months, wheeled away northward. On one afternoon of high and unusual winds, a flock of cedar waxwings appeared out of the high, white sky to take cover in a pecan tree. There they sat, brown and round, preening. I counted twenty.
The Grancy greybeard blooms, snakes abandon winter quarters. The first ruby-throated hummingbird returns to feed on trumpet creeper blooming up the pine tree, and kingbirds again perch on strands of barb-wire fence, flouncing their ruffled tails. This is the time enough pokeweed shoots up to cook a mess of poke salat.
The rising sun eases toward my neighbor's house to the north.
Then, with hardly more than a taste, sweet spring is gone.

Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, lives in Baxley.
 

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