Apr 25, 2008

On Spring Afternoons and Unexpected Joy

After a harried late-semester week, I spent the morning cramming for the last session of an independent study course that might be the last coursework I need to complete my PhD. I rushed to finish the last 200 pages of reading material, and the written project that was due today needed more work, so the run-up to the class was frenetic.

And then came a blessing: my minor field advisor, who is getting married next week, had to reschedule our appointment.

Now, instead of two-hour grilling on material for which I was less-than-prepared, I found myself with a block of free time. I decided to head home and divest myself of dress clothes, opting instead for a pair of shorts in this unseasonably muggy 80-degree afternoon.

I walked through the one-third acre of urban landscape that is my double lot, warm mud squishing in between my bare toes. My first stop was to inspect and photograph my tulips, which chose this week to fill my yard with color.

Some day I am going to spend a few hundred dollars on enough bulbs to create one of those dense tulip displays with thousands of colorful petals dancing in the spring breezes. For now, though, I appreciate the few dozen tulips that grace me with their annual return.

I next paused to gaze at a large nest that is home to an unknown species of bird. I noticed the avian construction last week, but as yet I have not seen the owners of this arboreal high-rise, located about 80 feet in the air on an oak tree.

My birdwatching was interrupted by the buzzing of some agitated carpenter bees, whose work I must have disturbed. I am not sure of the location of their nests, but they may be using a nearby telephone pole as a base.

The warm weather seems to have roused quite a few insects in the past few days. My travels have brought me into contact with Asian lady beetles, houseflies, and yellow jackets, most of which remained in hibernation until this week.

I ended my brief shoeless sojourn with a visit to some of my variegated hostas, which chose this week to transform themselves from quarter-inch shoots to burgeoning foliage. Until the hostas arrive each year, my yard looks especially empty, but their appearance is a sure sign that the change of seasons has hit its next phase.

So it was back to the mountain of work that needs to be wrapped up in the next ten days, but I am ever so grateful for the chance to spend a few free moments enjoying the outdoors instead of working indoors on, say, a pair of tankless water heaters. Too often we pass up such opportunities in the name of "productivity" or "multi-tasking," and I resolve to spend more time with mud on my feet this summer.

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