Monday, April 26, 2010

Requiem for a Circle

There was something quaint about the circles that dotted the roads when I first moved to South Jersey. They slowed the traffic as cars merged around them and hinted of a time when farms and orchards were abundant in the area. Then suburbia spread and the circles became congested. Instead of a smooth flow of vehicles there were snarls and occasional accidents. But there was still a bit of the country feel while the circles remained; they were grassy patches that connected roads divided by medians which each spring blossomed with color from the flowers the township planted. Then the state decided that the circles had to go. One by one they have been disappearing, replaced by wide stretches of tar and lots of traffic lights. The latest circle to go is the Marlton Circle, to be replaced by an overpass. Residents from the local townships understood that the tremendous increase in traffic demanded a more efficient plan but preferred that the redevelopment be more low-key. They suggested a simple intersection with turning lanes and smart lights to monitor the traffic. The state didn’t listen. So now, when Mother Nature brings out her beautiful blooms, this is what we have to look at. I hope that when the project is finished there will be some sense of what once existed here, that someone thought to engineer in some green. It isn’t only hardscaping that eases the movement of a community. Isn’t the flow of a neighborhood just as important as that of machines?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dandelions Call

I know, I know, it is counterproductive to blow on the dandelion seeds. We spend a lot time digging up the plants to keep them from taking over the lawn so this is really not the smart thing to do. But they call to us. There is something compelling about those white puffballs. Maybe it brings us back to childhood when we had no thought of pristine lawns and manicured gardens. Perhaps we delight in the delicate explosion, watching the tiny helicopters take off to parts unknown, wishing that in an often difficult world we could do it, too. Possibly we think deeper, sensing the intelligence behind the dispersal of the seeds, how the plant finds ways through wind and passing creatures and, yes, us, to cultivate new territory and ensure survival. It could be for all those reasons or others. Then again perhaps we do it just because it’s fun.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nest Eggs

Mother Nature offers us delightful surprises if we are open to seeing them. My friend Claire found one literally on her doorstep. There, inside a planter at her front entrance is a nest. And in the nest are three eggs! The plant is artificial but it doesn’t seem to matter to the bird who made her nest in it. They may be house finch eggs but Claire can’t be sure. She says that the mother bird scoots away too fast to get a good look at her whenever anyone opens the door or approaches from another direction. She is eager to see the eggs hatch and can already imagine the hungry peeping of the baby birds. What a treat! Spring is full of surprises like this: a burst of daffodils in a barren city lot, pink petals snowing down from a budding cherry tree, a rabbit resting in a mid-lawn depression. They, and so many other delights, are there each spring for the finding like nest eggs for our spirit.