01 April 2008

Spring Flowers

When I was a kid in Chicago we used to say “April showers bring May flowers” and we even had a joke about it that went:

Question: If April showers bring May flowers then what do May flowers bring?

Answer: Pilgrims!!!

The thing is that here in Central Mexico the rains generally don’t come much before the feast day of Saint John the Baptist which is June 24th. That really is no problem however, because many flowers bloom here all year around (especially if you water them) because it NEVER freezes. In the upper half of the United States most people have to wait quite a bit longer for their flowers and it usually isn’t until Mother’s Day that the flower gardens really get going. You can watch Spring creep northward at the rate of about twenty to thirty miles a day and by the time the Cherry trees bloom in Washington D.C. everyone gets anxious for Spring. Some folks even get to pushing the season. That’s why opening day at Wrigley Field in Chicago is usually cold and dreary (and even more so when the Cubs lose). The average date of the last frost in Northern Illinois is about April 15th…at least it was until “Global Warming” came into vogue. I used to wait for it every year and I took note that in Chicago it was around April 12th when the leaves started to appear on the tees. It seemed like one day there weren’t any leaves at all and the next day everything started turning green.

I recall that when I lived in Topeka, Kansas it began to get warmer a little earlier than Chicago but not by more than about a week or ten days. We knew it was definitely Springtime in Kansas when the Redbud trees began to flower and the sight of a Redbud tree in bloom against the drab gray brown of the surrounding countryside would take your breath away. I was a beekeeper in those days and I was always delighted when I opened a hive in the Spring to see if my bees made it through the winter and I found bees filling the beeswax cells with yellow and red pollen. The yellow pollen was from dandelion flowers and red pollen was from the Redbud trees. The Redbud and the Dandelion are definitely God's gift to the honeybee. I also remember that there was a local legend about the Redbud tree. People said that originally the Redbud was a rather large tree with white flowers and that the cross used by the Roman soldiers to crucify Jesus was made from a Redbud tree. After the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ the Redbud never again grew large enough to be made into a cross and the flowers changed from white to red. From that day on, the Redbud was, and still is, the first tree to bloom in the Spring as a reminder the Resurrection and Eternal Life.

Here in Irapuato, Guanajuato where I live we have our own harbinger of spring called the Jacarnda tree (ha-ka-RAHN-dah). It is one of the first trees to bloom in the Spring and it has beautiful purplish blue flowers. It’s formal name is “Jacaranda mimosifolia” and I believe it is a native of Northern Argentina or Southern Brazil but now it can be found all over the world. There is another tree that blooms here about the same time or shortly after and it looks somewhat similar to the Jacaranda but it has orange flowers instead of blue. At first I was confused because most people here refer to both trees as “Jacarandas” but I found out that the orange variety is actually another species called “Caesalpinia pulcherrima”. Many people call it “Tabachín” but it is also referred to as “Framboyán” or “Flamboyán” or even “Flamboyant”. In any case I guess it doesn’t really matter much what you call the trees as long as you can enjoy them every year at Easter time and be reminded of the promise of another life that awaits us in the great beyond.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.