Last night it rained torrentially here in Keene, after a day of drizzle and damp. Early this morning when I walked, the grass was soaked through with rain and dew, as were my sandal-clad feet and rolled-up pants-legs after I’d cut through the cold, tall grass at the end of our street, roadblocks and yellow caution-tape be damned. The woods along “my” shortcut were dripping with wet, green leaves as a tropical cloud of mosquitoes and black-flies descended on my bare arms and around the dog’s head, halo-like. This, I recalled, is why sane folks don’t hike in New Hampshire in May: even when vegetation hasn’t overgrown your path, your way will be marred by blood-sucking insects, your view shrouded by an impenetrable veil of green.
Downtown Keene is green beyond belief these days. Not only are the trees in Central Square in full leaf, nearly hiding the Congregational church spire, but city maintenance crews are laying new sod along the sidewalks. Everywhere you look downtown, the grass-covered ground is an alarmingly artificial shade of deep, velvety green: a shade out of a horticultural catalogue, not what you’d expect in a state that grows granite. Keene is a particularly fastidious town, taking pride in her impeccably landscaped civic spaces, but I prefer the pale, muted shades of natural grass and ground over this trucked-in, carpet-like lushness.
Back in March and the early days of May when the trees were bare, I craved chlorophyll like a drug denied; in those gray days, I zeroed in on the smallest sprout or spot of verdure with a laser-like intensity, envying those animals that graze on green. These days, though, I feel somewhat overwhelmed by Nature’s fecundity, by these leaves that have seemingly sprouted overnight to crowd and choke my view with a claustrophobic intensity. How quickly the bare, hard-frozen ground erupts into foliage; how quickly a tame, trimmed garden overflows its borders, lapping up space like an insatiable green flame.
Apparently I’m alone in my alarm. Yesterday the dog, giddied by the lure of spring, stood in belly-high grass and grazed, picking off the tops of some sort of palmately divided, cinquefoil-like leaf. Usually the dog nibbles plants only when he’s feeling sick: he’ll sniff then nibble a particular kind of greenery which makes him vomit, a natural cleansing purge. But yesterday he showed no signs of distress nor did he get sick afterward; instead, he tore off and swallowed leaves as if for sheer delight in their lush spring freshness, his own ritual of vernal absorbtion.
I should know better than to fight against fecundity: when feeling overwhelmed by time and and her vegetative rush, I should surrender to that force and go with the flow. The force that fuels the flower is formidable but temporary: plants rush and choke because they know without sentience that their days are numbered. The weeds that seem so strongly defiant in May will wither and freeze in a matter of months; their green stampede toward the sun is as much an act of desperation as it is a march of joy, spurred by an urge of only limited duration. Like panicked movie-goers racing out of a flaming theatre, plants rush, tumble, and crush their way toward light, any light, heedless of any and all signs and barriers. They’ve only a handful of months into which to cram their entire leafy lives, these weeds and greenery; stand back and watch your step lest you be overswept by their chlorophyllic furor.