March 29, 2009

Crocuses and pussy willows

Hopeful

Yesterday temperatures rose. And the sun came out.

My daughter, my teenagers, and their friends celebrated by playing Ultimate –- running about madly in a muddy field, doing layouts onto the soft, wet ground. My husband had to stay inside to write a depressing, yet reassuring speech about the economy. Boy in Black was off at an Ultimate Tournament although he still can’t play because of his injury. I’m sure Boy in Black would argue that watching other people play Ultimate on the first warm day of the year while standing on the sidelines with an injury is sadder than trying to figure out what to say to hundreds of people about a bleak economy.

I’ve got a lingering cough that would make play Ultimate impossible so I sneaked away to visit a friend: Long Beautiful Hair. We walked around her city neighborhood to look for signs of spring. And we found them: the very first flowers opening amidst all the dead stems and leaves from last year. Her neighbors were outside, raking and cutting shrubs, and we kept stopping to talk to people as we wandered the curving streets. The sun felt warm on our backs as we walked, both of us stripping off our fleeces so that we could feel the heat on our bare arms.

“Look! Pussy willows!” Long Beautiful Hair interrupted our conversation. They were out, little clumps that looked like smooth cat fur. We stopped to pick some.

Several blocks from her house, we walked onto a construction site – a reservoir that’s being rebuilt. The reservoir sits atop a tall hill that’s considered one of the best sledding hills in Snowstorm City. Sledding on the hill has been illegal for as long as I can remember, but people have ignored that law for as long as I can remember. This January, though, a twelve-year-old girl died after her sled crashed into a parked car at the bottom of the hill, and now the city has put up orange snow fencing to help enforce the no-sledding rule.

Long Beautiful Hair had just finished telling me the story about the sledding accident when the project manager came out of a trailer to tell us we weren’t supposed to be there. He was about our age, and clearly not a local. Beautiful Hair said to him, “I live in the neighborhood.”

She looked at him expectantly.

He hesitated. “Um, I can’t let you walk up there. We’re working today.”

Beautiful Hair shifted the branches of pussy willows she held in her arms. “I was hoping to see what’s been going on.” She nodded toward the steep hill that blocked any construction activity from the view of neighbors.

Project Manager made a fast decision. “How about if I give you a tour in my car?”

So we climbed into his car, piling the branches of pussy willows onto his back seat, and he drove us up and around the hill. As his tires crunched over the gravel, we found ourselves at the bottom of an empty water storage tank. Big walls were going up around us – and tall columns that would support a roof. The reason for the project was to create covered water storage, to protect the water supply from terrorists. The curving walls rose like the sides of a dam. “It will hold 32 million gallons of water when it’s done,” Project Manager told us.

After the tour, we stood and chatted in the sun for a while. Project Manager’s next water reservoir project will be built out near my way – on land adjacent to Pretty Colour Lakes.

“It’s near a nunnery or something,” he said.

“The Franciscan Sisters own that land.” I explained. “It’s their retreat place.” It’s a place I’ve been to many times, including an all-day retreat in eighth grade that led to me and Outdoor Girl taking a swim in their pond.

Project Manager said he was from the West Coast. How funny it must be to travel across the country to work on a major project in a place where you don’t know the landscape or the community.

We walked back to Beautiful Hair’s house to sit on her front porch with cups of hot tea. She warmed up pita bread, and we rummaged through her refrigerator to find carrots and hummus. The sun shone down on us as we ate and talked. But too soon, we looked at our watches and realized that the afternoon was over. She was in charge of a youth event at her church, the brick building just next door, and I had to go home and shower to go to the event my husband was speaking at. We hugged goodbye, and I drove home with a pile of pussy willows on the seat next to me.

7 comments:

Sandy said...

Pussy willows! I use to gather them when I was a kid, but we don't have them here.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I completely forgot about pussy willows. Now I want to go find a marsh.

Can we hear your husband's depressing yet reassuring speech? I could use one of those. (As long as it's not reassuring in the sense that "if you default on your house, your credit is only shot for 7 years" is supposed to be reassuring.)

Rev Dr Mom said...

There is a big old tree at the edge of the parking lot at church--and I only just learned that it is a pussy willow tree. Who knew? (I didn't know they grew on trees--should I be embarrassed to admit that?)

MonkeyPants said...

Hurray for you seeing the crocuses! (Crocii?) They are the bravest harbingers of spring around here.

liz said...

Pussy Willows!!! And what lovely crocuses.

YourFireAnt said...

I hope the new reservoir doesn't spoil the peacefulness at Alverna.

FA

SingingOwl said...

I have a pussy willow bush right by the back deck. A picture of them is my new blog header. There is snow on the deck--but also pussy willows beside it!