Savoring Spring in Texas, Pollen and All

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We’re at the peak of azalea season in our neighborhood, which is ablaze in riotous blooms and covered in pollen. It lays a yellow-green carpet on cars, driveways, houses, etc. Past experience has taught me to tamper my obsessive-compulsive instinct to haul out the pressure washer and wash the pollen away — only to discover a fresh coat by the next morning. This time, I will wait until I am certain the trees are finished leafing out, no longer dropping pine peanuts, oak clusters, sweetgum balls and yellow powder before I begin an amphibious assault.

The pollen is a small price to pay for the beauty of a Texas spring. Walking in our neighborhood right now is like meandering through the midst of a giant garden. Most of the homes here were built in the 1980s and 1990s, so the landscaping has matured, some azalea shrubs 15 feet high. I feel blessed every morning to be able to walk here.


I drove to Austin last weekend to deliver copies of my latest book (Yours Faithfully, J.A.: The Life and Writings of H.B. Fox, the Circleville Philosopher — available at garyborders.com or on Amazon) to Book People, the venerable Austin bookstore that is a must-stop for me on any trip to River City. And to deliver copies to the daughter of my biographical subject, so she could kindly sell them for me.

Yellow wildflowers dominated the pastures along the route as I got on Hwy. 31, west of Tyler. The pastures are green, and the cows appear content. Bluebonnets began appearing along the highway just past Hubbard, small patches along the shoulder and in the median. Bluebonnets increased in number the closer I got to Waco. Once I turned south on I-35, the shoulders and medians were carpeted in our state flower. Being Easter weekend, it seemed more folks than usual were parked along the access roads. Parents photographed children dressed in their finery amidst a carpet of bluebonnets.

According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, the bluebonnet season this year will be “perfectly average.” A Houston Chronicle story quoted the director as saying Texas will see “bumper crops” of phlox and pink evening primroses, however. I saw plenty of primroses along the highway but had to Google phlox to figure out what it was. My botanical knowledge is fairly limited.


           As always while in Austin, I walked the Lady Bird Lake trail early Saturday morning, feet crunching on gravel a welcomed, familiar sound. A steady breeze blew off the lake, rustling the trees. Rowing crews glided down the lake at the direction of a fellow standing in the bow with a megaphone. Dogs were everywhere, especially in the leash-free zone, near the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn. They chased after Frisbees hurled by their owners. This trail is one of my favorite places in the world. I hope to keep walking here for many years to come, although it is highly doubtful I will ever live in Austin again. The city has gotten too big and rich for us, the traffic ridiculous. But I love to visit and soak up Austin’s energy and vibe for a few days every few months.


            I delivered a box of books to Circleville after leaving Austin. Circleville consists of a couple stores and a sign marking its existence. H.B. Fox used to joke that Circleville was a “state of mind.” The humorist and subject of my biography created the imaginary Circleville Chamber of Commerce in the back of the famed Circleville Store, nole operating as a roadhouse. Its owner quickly agreed to sell copies of the book.

After leaving the Fox homeplace, on which his adult children still live, I stopped at an old cemetery I had never noticed before, on the side of the road. Usually the Johnson grass overwhelms the tombstones but someone had mowed some of the grass, leaving the bluebonnets, lilies and those yellow wildflowers whose name I don’t know. I stopped and took some photos. The gravestones, perhaps a dozen, dated back to the 1870s.

I headed back home on I-35, having abandoned my vow to forever avoid this highway. I’m not one to hold a grudge, and that route has better rest stops and more bluebonnets. I am savoring every moment of spring, knowing that a Texas summer is just around the corner.

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