‘Thrilled’ by the sights of spring

Published 7:54 pm Tuesday, March 29, 2016

By Susan and Biff Andrews

“April is the cruelest month/breeding lilacs out of the dead land…”

— “The Wasteland,” T.S. Eliot

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As we drive and walk through Western Tidewater, preparing ourselves for the first of April, we see such lovely sights besides lilacs.

As we drive along Route 10 between Suffolk and Smithfield, we feast our eyes on the sight of billowing “polyethyleenies.” Some are blue-gray “Wedgewood Modern.” Some are the lovely buff color of a waxwing’s breast, and some are white, with a face not like a pansy but a lion.

Half-buried in the fields, later to be covered by cotton and soy, these dance and billow in the breeze like Wordsworth’s “host of golden daffodils.”

On a subsequent walk at Windsor Castle Park, we thrill to the sights of water features — Dasani, Deer Park and even the coveted Perrier. They sparkle in the sun when new, and then fade with age, as all things must.

Precious metals are also on view — the common blue Bud Light species, the occasional Silver Bullet, more common than the Monsters and Red Bulls of the younger generation. Do the youth toss less or walk the trail less? A philosophical conundrum!

Crossing the footbridge over the marsh, we view antique beach glass in the marsh, not yet broken, not on sand — no doubt now coveted by collectors — as well as more modern styrofoam bits slowly browning in the mud.

Returning home to Suffolk we find not “blown film extrusion” polyethyleenies but more durable forms — some pliable, like deflated kids’ balloons and flat plastic balls, and some more rigid, like bottle caps, broken tent pegs and bits of clothes hangers — their origins uncertain, hidden in the mist. Each, no doubt, has a story to tell.

A walk through the neighborhood provides the delicate scent (and sight) of unscooped dog poop, and everywhere the tiny white and brown cigarette butts so scorned by their users but so cherished by walkers.

A quick trip to the store furnishes the sight of a motorist jettisoning the weighty cargo of a fast-food drink cup — plastic top, straw and all — but at least no paper bag, napkin and clamshell followed this time. So nice of the driver to share.

Later, on a back-country road, we find the treasures of the day: three doughnut-shaped hollow rubber specimens and a padded wood-and-metal framed behemoth, soaked and sagging but obviously stuffed with foam rubber and capable of lasting decades longer.

While they were no longer very attractive or colorful, we left them secure in the knowledge we could visit them again in the coming years.

How lovely in decay! How trenchant the commentary on the transient human condition!

How indestructible their stamp on Nature! Why, these treasures may well be here in the next century if not removed.

“Son of Man/You cannot say/or guess, for you know only/A heap of broken images, where the sun beats/And the dead tree gives no shelter….”

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.