Spring Has Sprung

Spring, it seems, has sprung! Outside Mattie’s school, the grape-like blossom of the mountain laurel fills the air with its bubble-gum fragrance; and last week I had my first sighting of wildflowers: clumps of rust-and-gold Indian Blanket, and bluebonnets, beside the cycling path along the San Antonio River, south of downtown. Further north, at the Botanical Garden, the pomegranate trees now bear tiny green leaves – though it will not be until July or August that they will bear their luscious fruit. During my last visit to the Garden, I noted that the great white egret had disappeared. I first spotted it in the autumn when it was contentedly ensconced on an orangey-rust branch of a cedar tree, haughtily gazing down upon a gaggle of geese at the lake edge; later in winter, when the cedar had shed its leaves, it was poised on an upturned log in the middle of the lake. Now, only turtles occupy that log and I imagine the egret flew further south, to the Gulf coast, during a cold front. When Mike, Mattie and I made a day trip to the coast last weekend, I noted the odd splash of pink phlox here and there on the roadside and Mike pointed out that the mesquite trees were beginning to sprout leaves. The old timers, he said, used to say that spring had arrived when the mesquite trees became green. As we approached the coast, the mesquites became greener, finally giving way to dark alluvial farming fields, punctuated with the occasional oil jack. The large oil refinery near Corpus Christi is always, for me, the sign that our journey is almost over.
Instead of staying at Corpus, this time we took the small car ferry a short distance over the ocean to Port Aransas, situated on a long spit. Last time we did this, dolphins ducked in and around the ferry. This time I imagine the water was too cold for them. It was for me, too: though I got as far as putting on my swimsuit, in the end I only had a paddle. After lunch, and a long walk along the beach looking for shells, we spent a while watching cormorants and teal at a small bird preserve. There was an alligator, too, lurking somewhere in the waters though during our visit it failed to reveal itself. Mattie spent most of her time looking through a large telescope – a peregrine falcon was perched on a telegraph wire in the near distance – and I was reminded of our very first trip to the West Country back in the UK when Mattie, then only four, loved to look out at the sea through telescopes. Then, Mike had to lift her up to do so. Now, eight years later, she is of course tall enough to manage herself.
We drove back to San Antonio in the early evening. The sun hung low in the sky like a large burnt-orange ball until just before seven it disappeared from view. Only the odd electric light now dotted the countryside until, finally, the bright lights of the city appeared. During the journey, Mattie had kept wanting to hear one of my Nanci Griffith albums. I mentioned the Texas singer/songwriter in my book, Dear Mummy, Welcome and it was back in 1997 when by chance I first heard Griffith, at the Royal Albert Hall, singing about Texas bluebonnets. Funny to think that all these years later, Mattie has become such a big fan of hers.

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