By Tom Poland
Spring’s springing. I put my hummingbird feeders up for soon the feathered jets will arrive. My azaleas burst into living color as Disney phrased it, and hardwoods’ newly minted leaves look so green they’re fluorescent. The cypress I planted long ago sports tender bright green needles. Yes, spring’s here but there’s no joy in Mudville, nor any town for that matter.
A silent strange spring we have.
Most folks have nowhere to go and all day to get there. No traffic noises. No horns. No school buses. A fine film of pollen coats cars that go nowhere.
The clock’s second-hand jumps … tick … tick … tick. How to pass the time? For me, it’s not that different. I work out of my home. Writing projects keep me busy. And there’s the need to support columns and stories with photos. I journey solo into the country to photograph old barns, orchards, abandoned farms, antique mule-drawn farm machinery, and things that say, “Yes, people used to live more simply.”
They lived more independently too. They grew their own vegetables and canned tomatoes, beans, and more. Preserved peaches and more too. A summer ritual it was. I remember Mom using a strange word. “I need to blanch the butterbeans.”
Blanch? I knew a woman named Blanche, but “blanch” had to do with boiling water and getting butterbeans ready for freezing. People still can and freeze food but not around these parts. Not in the city. Well, not like in the 1950s.
Ah, the 1950s. Let’s go back to the golden era of outhouses and corncobs and that legendary catalogue. No runs on toilet paper back in that fine era of privies. I suspect the dearly departed outhouse gang would find TP-obsessed folks a tad silly. Any grocery store you dart into like aforementioned hummingbirds has empty shelves where toilet tissue sat. Come fall, if we have football, what will those War Eagles do at Toomer’s Corner?
A silent, strange fearful spring we have. New Yorkers streaming south give new meaning to that phrase, “Go home Yankee.” Hunter Thompson had his fear and loathing in Las Vegas but folks everywhere fear and loathe now, and mostly they stay put. The old joke that “I’d rather stay home and straighten out my sock drawer” is no longer a joke.
Listen … the clock’s second-hand jumps … tick … tick … tick. What to do? As I said, I venture into rural areas solo. Explorations make for great escapes, and when I’m mobile, I prepare for anything that might force me to stop where people congregate. The tank’s full. In my car are coffee, water, and food. “I’m mobile,” as the Who sang, and no one can catch me, and “catch” is the word of the day.
And yet I find this silent strange spring comforting in a way. It puts life in perspective. Nothing like fear to make people take stock of things. A vacation of sorts is ours whether we want it or not. Put this gift of time to good use. Stay safe. And one more thing. Turn off the TV. Read books. You’ll find it a much better way to ignore the tick tick tick of the clock and best of all? You silence the fearmongers.
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