March madness

This tough winter just doesn’t seem to want to leave. Yesterday the trees and early flowers were coated in ice, and today a cold rain dampens the earth and my spirits in equal measure.

Even the usually cheerful UPS man was down when I saw him. When I called out to ask how he was, he said, “I’m ready for the sun to come out!” Me, too. How about you?

I know spring is coming, and it will defeat winter in the end, but the lingering bad weather brings with it its own kind of March madness as my friends and neighbors try to put on brave faces about the weather (“It could be worse!”) and more school closings (“Maybe we won’t lose another day of spring break.”). We’re trying to carry the bliss of beautiful hints and spring and warm, sunny days scattered in with slick roads and wintry mixes and general cold grayness.

At least there’s college basketball to distract us, right? I grew up in a place where this time of year is sacred – not only for Lent and Easter approaching – but also for conference basketball tournaments and then the NCAAs. It was perfectly normal from elementary school through high school to watch basketball at school, occasionally writing essays about the game in French to justify the TV on in the classroom.

There are many who believe tournament time is at the very least worthy of its own national holiday(s). That’s the place I come from, the place where March madness is a perfectly acceptable disease, and you’re the odd outlier if you don’t suffer from it.

There were games last night, and there will be more games to come, but today, to escape the other sort of March madness, I ventured out on this cold, rainy day, looking for signs of spring. Here are some of my favorites to share with you:


Witchhazel is already blooming.


Peach blossoms getting ready.


Another kind of peach tree, ready to welcome spring


Buds on a weeping smoothleaf elm


More peach blossoms — they were my favorites today.


An empty trellis waits for spring.

You may remember my post a few summers back about the passion flower. This trellis is where their vines will reappear when the weather is right. If you need a shot of summer right now, revisit the post.

I’m clearly not the only one suffering from March madness, given some of the art installations I discovered on my journey:




A new monster has emerged from the soil over the winter.


Turned mad from a prolonged winter?


The tail end of the mad monster

I hope these photos bring you some smiles, along with the knowledge that nature knows it’s time for spring to arrive. In the meantime, scroll down for another way to beat the madness that March brings.


Tread carefully around those whose eyes are filled with any variety of March madness.

It’s hard to turn anywhere without seeing a March madness bracket of some sort (favorite Southern city, favorite rock songs, favorite desserts). I’ve been thinking that if the four seasons were each brackets, how on earth would winter’s bracket have sixteen things? I mean, I could see the other seasons needing play-in games, but winter? I struggled, but here’s my list of winter’s 16 (I hope you’ll fill in the lines yourself):

(1) Christmas
(16) Snow days (The lowest seed this year for being the obnoxious Cinderella team that won’t quit)

(8) Sledding
(9) Fires in the fireplace

(5) Hibernating snakes
(12) Soup

(4) Camellias
(13) Fuzzy socks

(6) Less chafing while running (Non-runners have to trust me on this one.)
(11) Low humidity

(3) Hot chocolate
(14) Indoor track

(7) Down comforters
(10) No poison ivy

(2) No mosquitoes
(15) Fewer gardening chores

So who would win winter’s bracket? What did I leave out that you think should be in this bracket? Is there any winter team that could take on spring and therefore meet the autumn/summer winner in the final match-up? Which season would win it all and why? Jump in the game with your thoughts below.

There but for the grace of God

Spring has finally come to my part of the world, and I promise those of you still waiting with snow on the ground, spring will come to you, too. One sure sign of spring is March Madness, that time in the college basketball season when many of us spend too much time in front of the television and too much time at work talking about how our bracket picks are holding up.

On Easter, my parents came over for lunch, and they were somewhat incredulous that I wasn’t planning to watch Duke play Louisville later in the day. Their incredulity is fair, because when I lived under their roof, I was as avid a basketball fan as they come. And at one point, when I played in a youth orchestra at Duke and dreamed of attending Duke for college, I was an avid Duke fan. Watching Lousville beat Duke in the 1986 Championship game was very painful for me, and so I’m never anxious to watch Louisville play.

As Robert Frost writes, “Way leads on to way,” and I ended up attending an ACC school, but not of the blue and white ilk. My team made a hasty exit from the NCAA tournament this year, and so my interest level in the rest of the tournament had dropped to near zero.

So when I turned the television on Sunday afternoon, I hadn’t really been planning to watch basketball. I simply wanted to spend some downtime watching one of the shows I recorded from the past week. But the television was tuned to the basketball, and when I realized it was the Duke-Louisville game, I decided to watch for a few minutes.

I wish I hadn’t turned on the TV at all, because moments into my watching came that awful moment. You basketball fans know the one I mean. Louisville’s Kevin Ware was trying to block a Duke player’s 3-point shot, and when he came down … well, there was no mistaking the leg break. I cried out. I cried out again when the network replayed his leg breaking in slow motion. It is an image burned on my brain, and it made me feel sick. (I will not watch it again, and for those of you who haven’t seen it, I hope you’ll trust my decision not to link to a video of it here. It’s horrific, and you just don’t need to watch it.)

Continue reading