Last week I watched with my annual awe at the rebirth of these forested hills; but Mother Nature is a fickle bitch. She unleashed a harsh mid-April snowstorm on Western North Carolina with frigid winds and icy temperatures bent on staving the arrival of Spring.
The Great Smoky Mountains took the last assault from the far north in stride and wore their dusting of powdered sugar with more pride than disdain. The weather prognosticators had warned of the approaching front; gardeners and nursery workers throughout the region scurried to protect the tender spring blooms, potted ornamentals and starter vegetables. The orchard tenders, those guardians of our delicious Autumn fruit, irrigated and fanned the tiny pink and purple flowers hoping with worry and dread that there would be no recurrence of the “year of no apples.” The feral critters of the woods took to their burrows and lairs; the flocks of avian songsters found refuse from the bitter winds in the eaves of rustic barns and in sheltered rocky crags; the domestic cattle, chickens, turkeys, donkeys and geese were all stowed with love by their kind custodian, the farmer. Quaint chimneys exhaled aromatic wisps while the townsfolk sipped mugs of hot cocoa or tea. Higher in the hills and deeper in the forest the scene would have been similar, but the sipping would be from Mason jars and the beverage, White Lightning.
It seemed as all Haywood County was hunkered down for this last winter storm.
As is typical for a late season storm, it blew in and blew out in less than 24 hours. By late afternoon of the day after, nowhere except on the faraway highest peaks was there any signs of snow, ice or the recent incursion by Old Man Winter. The storm was gone and the energy of the mountains once again turned to the greening of Spring.
From the front deck of my house, in the winter, while the trees are barren, I can see, far below, the county road that accesses the private lane up to this secluded ridge. As the season warms and the deciduous dendritic fingers push new tendrils out, the road becomes obscured to my view; it was a reversal in this annual refashioning that preempted my attention as I sipped my morning coffee yesterday, enjoying the early morning vista. I heard a distant engine and watched as one of the farm hands arrived at work. It was a troubling revelation that I could once again see approaching vehicles. In preparation for our recent freeze, it seems no one had warned our arboreal neighbors. The tender new leaves on the highest branches, those harbingers of the verdant spring, now drooped like the dry brown tears of a mourning mother. Her energy spent on the new growth wasted, the grandmotherly hemlock that resides near the front of my home, now has a sad and defeated look that touches me deep in my soul.
I don’t know if these trees will attempt resuscitate the vestiges of their recent proud array or shed them to make room for some as yet unborn buds. Mother Nature, in her often aloof and harsh benevolence, will nurture her children with a divine lenity that no mere mortal could ever understand. As an example, many of her less statuesque forest stock were shielded by their altitudinous parents and their new growth is still intact. Yes, the seasonal change has arrived in these mountains, and even in light of our late winter storm, let no one doubt the Spring Green. It is a wondrous time to live in the Smokys.