Catkins and Helicopters and Life at the Edge of the Woods

When you live on the edge of the woods you become part of the woods. The plants of the woods want to be a part of your garden. The creatures of the woods want to roam free in the clearing that you’ve made for them, and swim (sometimes unsuccessfully) in the pool you’ve placed as an offering. And the pollen, seeds and nuts make an airborne assault on… everything.

Living here on the edge of the woods for twenty years now, I’ve learned the habits of the woods; just as I know which neighbors mow on Sunday, I know roughly when the acorns and hickory nuts start raining down in the fall, and roughly when the oak catkins and the maple helicopters will fly in spring. Yesterday was day one of the helicopter assault. Tens of thousands of them whirled down into everything – the pool, the deck, the flower beds, into the potted plants, the gutter… everywhere. And I know they’re not done. Looking up into the maples you see clumps of willing volunteers poised to make their own flight. No, it’s not over yet.

Meanwhile the catkins quietly prepare for their own assault. Oaks do everything later than the maples. They leaf out later, turn color later, and drop their leaves much later in the fall. Everything has its time, and the oaks don’t rush anything. They’ve made probing missions already, but I know they’re holding out until I’ve cleaned up the yard.

So the pool skimmers pile up clumps of soggy muck that need to be scooped out every morning, and sometimes during heavy assaults a couple of times a day. The patio has its own artwork going, with seed pods and clumps of catkins glued together with pollen, and moss and weeds popping up as the temperatures pull the trigger on the starting gun. Picasso has nothing on Mother Nature. <sigh> Add weeding to the to-do list. And the cleanup begins again, and then again still, until the woods concede another season to me. But we both know they’ve got time in their side.

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