May is running toward its end, the shad bloomed late but beautifully, the lilacs are fading, some of the greenest grasses have already gone to seed. My entryway, with its west-facing door, open as it generally is in all but the worst weather, is seeing the springtime activity that is a new delight regardless of the fact that it is an annual adventure.
In the gabled peak of the entry, there is an infrequently used snow shovel, old aqua blue metal, wedged securely overhead, the space between it and the framing against which it rests apparently inviting, this year to what I presume is a Carolina wren. There has been a wren in the entry other years, one in the living room bookcase nearest the always open door when I spent little time in that room, another managing to make its way all the way into the bathroom where it built a nest behind a stack of towels.
Spring had come early, windows as well as the door were open. Yes, I have screens but, no, they are never in place, they shut out light.
This year, I found not the usual twigs and fall leaves on the entry floor rather hay or straw of an unusual uniformity until I recognized it as the meadow leftovers, after the horses had pulled out what they wanted to chomp. Sweeping out the fallen pale pieces became a daily task. There was a flutter of wings when I let the dog in or out. The birds seemed to have an instinctual knowledge that I was no threat even though I — and not Autumn — could pick up a rake or hoe or just move the shovel.
There are white spatterings on the concrete floor, evidence of the birds being about although I’ve neither heard nor seen them in a while.
Now, the hay has been joined by white and yellow petals, the cast-off May dress of the miniature crab tree in the yard. The tiny specks of color cover the green grass of the yard and line the edge of the old walk, the spatterings stick to my windshield and a few errant ones even find their way into my living room on the back of my golden dog.
The miniature crab apple tree in the yard, just west of the entry door, was planted in the late 1970s, a present to my mother when she retired from teaching. It flourished, somehow set in the one spot where it would not be battered on one side by the salt wind, and it did not grow as some ornamentals on the island have, to more like weather vanes than trees, especially in the off-season when they are stripped of blossoms and leaves.
The little tree grew evenly, providing a shady bower under which various dogs rested. One year it hosted a raft of tent caterpillars, perversely intriguing insects that are too often mistaken for the gypsy moths that can defoliate whole forests. The more benign caterpillars simply build themselves a house, a tent, around a tree branch, and go about their main business: procreation. They eat the leaves but do not cause permanent harm, and are easily distinguishable from their evil relatives by their distinctive markings.
I made the mistake of posting a photo and received countless rally cries of “burn it,” each one accompanied by childhood tales of how the problem was handled, to one about trees in mainland yards. I’ve no idea if they were truly gypsy moths, although I did recall references to these gauzy apparitions in trees as what I heard to be “gypsy moss,” which never coincided with news stories of noisily denuded forests elsewhere.
It was the insidious bittersweet I did not really notice as it grew up among the branches, poking out the top, in waving green spears, until it had become too much for me to tackle — and too easy to dismiss as it was just more foliage, although I could not ignore the ever decreasing lack of white blossoms every spring.
It was among the several things salvaged with the arrival of the horses, my back lane and pond and orchard lots, and pastures and more.
The bittersweet had been climbing up into the tree but also sending out runners, eerily close to the surface, as if waiting for an opportune moment to assault the poor old yard. I went out one day thinking to pull up a few roots partially exposed when some lower branches were removed and found myself pulling a ropey vine that stretched yards out under the grass, one that came
up easily, having achieved a depth of only an inch or two. It was easier, I guessed, to grow laterally than down into the clay-laced earth.
The first year the little apple blossoms were anemic, more starved for sunshine than I had realized. I know how things grow, I see — or do not see — disappearing view-sheds every year, but this tree has gained remarkably and this year approached the clouds of white I had begun to think I had imagined it once produced for a fleeting time of glory every spring.
It has come and gone, already, the last of the flowers flying off this windy, foggy end-of-May day.
May, this most glorious month of the year, when the days are almost too long, the grass almost too green, the world almost too perfectly beautiful, is almost gone. The fields gleam in the golden sun and run before the wind. The ocean is clear and blue, “tropical-looking” every one says even as they speak of the chill to the water, the cold that keeps all but the most hardly ashore and leaves the ocean bed undisturbed close to the beach, where the wonder of the color is so visible from the road.