Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Colors of early spring

See how the various green crayons are so much the shades of the early spring trees?
Spring never seems to hurry in coming to northern New England. Right now the leaves are coming out on the trees, wildflowers and other spring bushes and bulbs are blooming, and the pollen is afflicting allergy sufferers. But just a week or two ago, we began to see what I think of as our "spring foliage". Its colors -- the emerging leaves of the hardwoods -- are pale and subdued when compared with the brilliant fall foliage. But it has a rare beauty all its own.

I must admit that I didn't notice this spring color for many years. But one year, in a cookbook, of all places, I read a description of it that made me look at spring quite differently. The cookbook was Country Flavor Cookbook, by Haydn S. Pearson. Mr. Pearson was an author and newspaper columnist who often wrote about New England and its food. This particular book contains some wonderful recipes as well as some evocative essays about New England life. While I don't agree with all that he wrote, I have enjoyed many of the essays -- including one called Beauty on the Ridges, where I first learned about this spring foliage.

Here is an excerpt from the essay:

"Each of us has his particular sign of spring that he cherishes. The countryman feels true spring has arrived when the hardwood trees on the ridges begin to start their leaves. Brooks are laughing down the slopes; there is color in the wings of warblers and vireos searching for nesting sites. Lady's-slippers blossom in the woods and creek banks are starred with marsh marigolds. Apple buds are plump to bursting and peonies' red-brown heads are lifting above moist brown soil. But the countryman waits -- waits for the beauty on the ridges.

"Then one day it happens. The birches and beeches, poplars and oaks, maples and hickories unfold their tiny leaves from tightly packed capsules. The hillside is painted with shades of purple and violet, soft reds and browns, tans, and yellow. Look closely in the dawn and sunset hours when the sun's rays are slanting, and you can see a dozen shades of loveliness that blend into one harmonious whole. There is a soft, glowing mistiness. For a few days only does the colorful beauty stay on the hillsides. Then the leaves lengthen and one knows a new season is underway. But for a brief period, he who wishes can lift his eyes to the hills and in the quiet beauty find reassurance in a troubled world."

~ from Beauty on the Ridges, by Haydn S. Pearson

I love that description, and to me the last sentence says more than the author may have meant it to. To me it speaks of the quiet assurance I find in Genesis 8:22: "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease."

But it was Mr. Pearson's description of the spring beauty on the ridges that opened my eyes to this subdued, yet lovely spring foliage. Now I never fail to notice it. This year, the pastel greens of certain trees seemed even more beautiful than usual. I took a few photos just in our yard but really failed to capture the loveliness. To me, some of the trees look just the color of a yellow-green crayon. Even more of them look exactly like a spring green crayon.

Yellow green

Spring green

More spring green. Over toward the left, you can see a pinkish tree.

Spring green -- this is a maple tree with what I can only describe as flowers cascading from the opening leaves. I'm not sure what they are technically called.

Maple flowers close up:
And here is a little bouquet of the maple flowers.

I know the pictures are not of the best quality -- I would love to have taken some better ones showing a hillside as described in the essay -- but they give the idea, anyway. Maybe next year I can get some better photos of this early spring loveliness.


  1. I think the green of spring is intoxicating. I want to see more and more of it. I was noticing riding home from work the other day how the first little leaves make rounded olive green impressions on the landscape. Like someone took a round sponge and stamped here and there on a dark drab background. Hmmm green... my favorite color for a reason :)

    So wish I could express my thoughts like your author did. What a beautiful description.

    Happy Spring to you!

  2. Nice description concerning the round sponge stamping green paint. I have seen that same exact thing but just hadn't put it into words.

    I too have found the spring greens so fascinating this year. And the other pastels too, but especially the green.

    Happy Spring to you, too!


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