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Another Day in the Country

These are strange times

© Another Day in the Country

There are lilacs blooming in Ramona! Not strange at all if it were April or May, but October?

Everyone knows that Lilacs bloom in the spring, if we’re lucky.

They come budding forth about March and we all hold our breath wondering, “Will this be a good year for lilacs?” which means, “No late frost!”

2020 wasn’t a particularly good year for lilacs. Then again, it hasn’t been a particularly good year for any of us!

We did have one of those killing frosts in late spring and everything was nipped. My mother’s weird princess tree was hit hard, moped for weeks, threatened to die, and then put out blossoms like there was no tomorrow, which means that she thought (if trees think, and I’m convinced they do make decisions) this probably was the last season for her and she’d better procreate, big time, and fast to preserve the species. The tree put out blossoms galore but no leaves. I thought she was a goner and then finally in late June began putting out just enough leaves to look like a bonafide tree. I still have that tree on “suicide watch.”

Art told me about the lilac’s blooming and I said, “Really? How weird.”

Then I saw them with my own eyes in Lost Springs. We were on our way home, my sister and I, from teaching Art at Centre Elementary. I slammed on the brakes.

“There they are!” I cried. 

My sister looked around wildly, “What?” she wanted to know, “Who?” straining at her seatbelt.

“Lilacs,” I said, ecstatically. And sure enough, a scraggly bush beside the ditch covered in spring blossoms — in October. I got out of the car, almost creating a traffic jam, to go pick some. Inhaled deeply, “aaaahhhhhh.” The smell of lilacs is one of my favorite scents. 

I picked a bouquet of those lilacs by the road, breathing deep, inhaling their sweet fragrance all the way home. And then I found some blooming in Ramona. Tough, old bushes, that no one cares for and barely even notices — blooming in October!

The lilacs in my yard, having put forth blossoms in the spring and considered it “enough already,” did not bloom again. They are saving their energy for 2021.

“Who knows what’s next?” is their question — and mine.

Last week I found little blue daisy-like wildflowers blooming beside the road. I assume they are wildflowers and being that they are low-growing and small, perhaps I’ve just never noticed them before; but it’s still strange.

Meanwhile the trees are shedding their leaves like they do every fall and I’m watching the projected temperatures to see when to expect a killing frost — it usually happens around Halloween.

I haven’t seen my family in California for nine months — that’s something of a record and feels very strange. I’m usually there, or they come here, every few months.

It’s not just COVID-19 that’s screwed up the schedule. It’s fire! They still haven’t been able to return home — maybe this week.

“Richard went up to water plants (he’s been hauling water) and tried to air out the house,” Jana reported yesterday. “It was almost worse to open the windows. At first it smelled musty and then after opening everything up, it just smelled like smoke!”

My daughter is dreading what she’ll find when she goes home. I can tell.

I keep trying to imagine the devastation on our beautiful mountain (albeit a low one) with skeleton tree trunks and parched earth, burnt grass and demolished landmarks. With our house still standing, we’re considered the lucky ones and we are blessed — spared by circumstance, our little neighborhood still intact, but meanwhile, all around us is scorched earth!

These are strange, unsettling times. Did you get up and go outside the other night when the big wind storm came through? I thought it was raining! I got up, pulled open the door and went outside on the porch to take down my hammock. I looked into the darkness and could see the air swirling under the street lights. It looked like rain but the sidewalks weren’t wet. The next morning I discovered what was blowing in the wind: DIRT. 

My grandmother told me stories about those Dust Bowl days when she put flour paste on newspaper and glued shut the windows to try and keep dust from filtering into the house. I felt like we were back 100 years in history as I wiped up dust from the bathroom floor where the window had been cracked open and hosed off drifting dust from the porches. 

A hundred years ago there were dust storms. A hundred years ago there was a flu epidemic. A hundred years ago people were refusing to wear masks and isolate themselves. And what have we learned in a hundred years as history repeats itself?

These are indeed strange times that we are having, on another day in this country.

Last modified Oct. 29, 2020

 

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