Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring has Sprung

"Kaal chhilo daal khali
Aaj phule jaay bhore,
Bol dekhi tui maali
Hoy se kemon kore?"

(Lost in translation)
Yesterday's barren boughs
Are full of flowers now
This happens, O gardener
Can you tell me how?

These lines by Rabindranath Tagore are going round and round in my head for the last few weeks, for exactly as he described, the barren branches and fields of the winter have suddenly erupted into a flowering frenzy which I would have never believed possible if I had not seen it myself.

Last year I wrote about spring in Kolkata, where the occasional palash tree shows unusual enthusiasm in welcoming spring along with the frantic cuckoos and mango blossoms, but that is about all that can be observed in the city. Many other plants and trees also flower there, but most of them are found in the suburbs or places like Salt Lake. Flowers bloom in proper Kolkata too, but they are the poppies, pansies, dahliyas and chrysanthemums of people's flower beds and flower pots. To truly see nature rejoice the passing of the long and severe winter, one needs to come to these higher latitudes.

And it all started very quietly. Even before the last snowfall of the season occurred, the dry fields were suddenly full of bright green velvety soft grass. The melting snow and rotting fall leaves had provided them enough nourishment to burgeon inspite of the cold weather. Then one day, I noticed someone's lawn full of small violet flowers. Soon there were more - some red, some yellow. Then, just over a month ago, I saw the first daffodil of my life while roaming around in New York City. That was just the beginning. Even before I could finish off the roll of black and white film in my camera and load color, there were flowers in every direction, at every height, and of every colour.

Daffodils, jonquillas, hyacinths and tulips formed the lowermost level, if we don't consider the yellow dandelions in the grass. Then there were some yellow flowers that absolutely covered some hedges. Dogwood, magnolia and apple blossoms covered larger trees. I have never seen a large tree get so covered with flowers that nothing else is visible. And it all happened very suddenly, within a day or two.

But the icing on spring's cake was provided by the cherry blossoms. Branch Brook Park in Newark has USA's largest collection of Japanese ornamental cherry trees, and they all bloomed together in the last two weeks. Words cannot describe the beauty of a grove of cherry blossoms - it is something to see and feel. Small pinkish white flowers by the millions cover every tree in sight, and as they mature the soft petals fall like rain and cover everything below as well. After the flowers drop off, new red and green leaves take their place. Soon, all trees will be full of leaves again and the cycle that started with the leaves turning red in last fall will finally end.

Since I came to the USA, I have seen three seasons - fall, winter and now spring. Each seemed more beautiful than the previous one. Let's see what the American summer feels like. After all, that is the most-awaited season around here.

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