Summer Comes to Springville Hill, or How the Decemberists’ Lovely Song Makes Me Think of Alabama in April

Here’s a hymn to welcome in the day.
Heralding a summer’s early sway.
And all the bulbs all coming in
To begin.
The thrushes bleating battle with the wrens
Disrupts my reverie again.

Pegging clothing on the line,
Training jasmine how to vine
Up the arbor to your door,
And more.
You’re standing on the landing with the war
You shouldered all the night before.

And once upon it
The yellow bonnets
Garland all the lawn.
And you were waking,
And day was breaking.
A panoply of song,
And summer comes to Springville Hill.

A barony of ivy in the trees,
Expanding out its empire by degrees.
And all the branches burst to bloom
In the boom.
Heaven sent this cardinal maroon
To decorate our living room.

And once upon it
The yellow bonnets
Garland all the lawn.
And you were waking,
And day was breaking.
A panoply of song.
And summer comes to Springville Hill.

— “June Hymn,” from The Decemberists’ album The King is Dead.

Listening to this oh-so-pretty song puts me in such a good mellow mood. And I know that the Decemberists are Yankees and are from Up North Somewhere where it’s not until June that the bulbs bloom and the trees flower and winter sort of slinks away. Here in The South, however, March and April — like, right now — is when all that happens. June is when we start complaining about 100-degree heat and it’s only the thought that football is a mere four months away that pulls us through.


Scarecrows in Alabama

There’s enough to do at Huntsville (Ala.) Botanical Garden’s Scarecrow Trail for an all-day adventure. To see the “trail,” you walk through the gardens and admire dozens of scarecrows that have been decorated by businesses, families, groups of friends. and all sorts of folks. The ‘crows are scary, funny, creative — you name it. Of course, HBG is gorgeous on its own. There are acres of shady woodland trails, flower gardens, natural areas and beautifully landscaped formal spots. My favorites are the peaceful Asian-inspired Garden of Hope and the butterfly house at the Nature Center. For children, there’s a playground paradise with games, mazes and all sorts of fun nooks and crannies to explore. Grandson Nolan, at 6 1/2 months, isn’t old enough yet to appreciate all the fun things he can do there, but on a recent visit he did try to eat the ferns in the butterfly house — what a nature boy! Of course, the Botanical Garden is a prime destination for two of my other top activities: eating and shopping. Clemintine’s at the Garden is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and serves fresh salads, soups and sandwiches, including a yummy roasted veggie pannini plus wine by the glass. Many local folks go there for lunch since you don’t have to pay garden admission to eat there, and it’s certainly worth it. And the gift shop at the Garden is superb — all sorts of seasonal decorations, garden-themed gifts and Christmas-stocking ideas. But the best part of the Huntsville Botanical Garden is that it truly is visitor-friendly. The folks there want to do everything they can to make your experience a positive one. For instance, you can bring your own food and eat a picnic lunch, and if you pay the one-day admission and then decide to become a member that day, you can get your ticket money back. Plus, everything is clean and well-maintained and the volunteers and staff answer questions, give directions and offer suggestions cheerfully and helpfully. Check it all out at

Picking Cotton

Before harvest ...

It’s cotton-picking time in northwest Alabama. When we first moved here 13 years ago from middle Tennessee, my young daughters thought the cotton looked like snow on the fields this time of year — and I still think that! Farmers are in the midst of harvest right now, so the rest of us share the roads with hardworking traveling tractors and escaped flying cotton strands. Of course, everything’s all computerized and digitized in 2008, but many people who grew up country around here still remember picking by hand. I love driving by a mechanically harvested field with folks who know from experience

... and after.

... and after.

where the phrase “in high cotton”* comes from. They shake their heads and say in that “back-in-my-day” tone of voice, “Daddy would never have allowed us to leave the fields with so much cotton like that.”

But I love living someplace where tractors and cotton and dirt and gin (not the liquor!) reports on the morning radio are important.

* “In high cotton” means that the cotton plants are high enough so that you don’t have to stoop or bend over to pick it.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

The flowers at left are beautiful and lush and healthy and make me happy every time I look at them. The “flowers” (and I use that term loosely) on the right are spindly and leggy and not doing well at all and make me cringe every time I have to look their way. So guess which flowers are smack dab in the front yard for all the world to see and which ones are hidden in a corner of the backyard where nobody goes? This is why I’m a weeder, not a gardener.