Nature pays no heed to expert wisdom
by Audrey Y. Scharmen
The paulowina tree in my yard beside the creek scattered its faded blossoms all about the hillside and on the gray-green water where a trio of newborn swans came to feed with their proud parents.
A family of mute swans was a lovely sight amid ripples of purple petals. The adults were extremely vigilant, and the male rose suddenly to chase away a pair of Canada geese who came too close. In a snow-flurry of feathers, he returned to his brood and they lingered in the dappled shade of the tree.
I was told many years ago by one who knows about such things that the paulowina - which turns out to be highly valued for its wood - is a trash tree. I went ahead and planted it anyway. The expert was right. The tree creates an amazing amount of lavender litter and the sweet-violet scent of its fluted flowers drifts brazenly into every open window of my house on soft May nights.
There were no trees on this land when we bought it 20 years ago. They all had been bulldozed by the previous owner, who left only an ancient crabapple with careless habits. It tosses pink petals in every direction in spring and in autumn drops its golden fruit all over the ground, which attracts such winged nuisances as yellow grosbeaks and cedar waxwings.
All my teen-age trees have a dark side. Nearby is a sweetgum with seedpods like huge spiked ball bearings; a sloppy locust whose wormlike spring tassels shed and clog the down spouts; and some untidy dogwood with psoriasis. I clean up after them all - just as I have always done for my roomie, my children, my pets and other cherished essentials who also have a dark side.
Now I must go down to greet the swan family beside the shore and inform them they are pests, near top on a list of environmental nuisances with a dark side. They are accused of destroying the submerged aquatic vegetation of the Chesapeake (what little we humans have chosen to leave for them). SAV is their main diet.
They trust me, thus I advise them to "fly away home," wherever that may be. But they do not know about migration. They were brought here against their will. They have no other home. I mention ethnic cleansing and collateral damage, catchy all-occasion euphemisms for the new millennium coined by those in charge of everything.
The little swans frolic unaware, ignoring me while their mother beams and father hisses threateningly as if he understands every word. I speak of ancestors who came here against their will and of those already here - for centuries - and how they were relocated. But the swans soon grow bored with my sermonizing and paddle serenely away through the fragrant trash of the paulowina.
I watch them disappear around a bend of the creek, all asparkle in morning sunlight, and I wonder if they might escape relocation and simply be allowed to fade gradually away - like the beaches, the woodlands and the shellfish, whose fate has been decided too by those who know about such things.
Scharmen - 1998's first-prize-winning weekly columnist in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Press Association Editorial Awards Contest - reflects from Leason Cove deep south in Calvert County.
Volume VII Number 26
July 1-7, 1999
New Bay Times
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