Ellen and I went treasure hunting at Goodwill last weekend. Bored with rearranging the knick-knacks into inappropriate postures, I ventured over to the Ace Hardware next door, where I bought one or two garden tools.
As my empty-handed, thrifty bargain hunter exited the Goodwill I greeted her with my shiny new giant pitchfork, a lopper, a mini-rake, a machete, a chainsaw, two pith helmets, garden gloves, tweezers, a new bird feeder, birdseed and 100 shares of stock in Ace Hardware.
Later, at home in our garden I confessed to Ellen, “I think I have spring fever. I’m in a daze. Help me to the hammock.”
She pointed her garden spade at me and lifted the wide brim of her hat, revealing her all-powerful arched eyebrow of doubt. “It’s the Claritin, nature boy.”
“Then it’s the sunscreen you accidentally ate.”
“The plant food pellet you mistook for a Tic Tac.”
“Read the warning labels, Mr. Green Jeans.”
“It’s spring fever!”
“You are so worthless this time of year. I’d put you up on eBay, but you’re so worthless no one would bid on you.”
She’s right. These spring days I sit on my porch, staring at the mountains like a Sonoran hillbilly with nothing on his mind, marveling at the birds calling to each other in the cool distance and saying “I wish we had three sunsets a day” to a lizard like I was Bambi talking to a reptilian Thumper.
I find myself yearning to rake palo verde blossoms. I long to skip with jackrabbits like Dick Van Dyke dancing among cartoon penguins.
Last month I hugged a saguaro and discovered Band-Aids are cheap when you buy them in bulk.
Last week I was found in a state of semi-conscious delirium next to a hedgehog cactus sprouting an intoxicating magenta bloom at Tohono Chul Park. When a groundskeeper slapped me back to reality I saw a flock of hummingbirds circling my grinning head like a Warner’s Brothers cartoon.
Yesterday I said, “Great thing about living here is you don’t have to shovel sunshine!” to a packrat the same way Jimmy Stewart would casually talk to a giant invisible rabbit.
I’m not myself.
And I’m not suffering this blissful malady alone. Wildlife experts tell us Gila monsters are 79 percent less monstrous during this time of year and many have observed rattlesnakes forego rattling during this period, preferring to “sigh” in a barely audible threatening manner. According to Audubon, in April and May, roadrunners forego running and simply amble.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders “Spring Fever” is characterized by excessive daydreaming and, “can lead to an individual becoming completely hammock-bound.”
I bravely read on, in spite of the beautiful weather. In my hammock.
“Symptoms include shameless euphoria mixed with sloth.” That’s me! Punch drunk for penstemons and high on brittle bush blossoms, I found recovery in the natural world, in our desert garden, pruning mesquites, clearing out prickly pear, transplanting agaves, cutting back creosote and making bouquets of wildflowers from our garden for my bride.
“How’s your Martian potato patch, Matt Damon? You look like porcupine who wrestled a mountain lion. Are you okay?”
“I’m good. Do you know where I can find a tweezer, some tongs, a pair of pliers, a gallon of Bactine, a bucket of sunburn ointment, 100 yards of gauze, some duct tape and two Tylenol?”
Spring fever can be bittersweet. These are the temperate days of the long goodbye to cool weather before summer slithers in and we’re forced into our air conditioned boxes in one of the fastest warming cities in America.
While I labor over my beautiful desert garden, designed to endure the heat and the drought, questions sprout alongside the salvias and aloes.
Will that hummingbird that just sampled our desert honeysuckles make it to South America? Will those mourning doves ever get grief counseling? Are those ocotillo blossoms waving at me?
Where should I plant more mesquites for shade? Where will I put the shade sails and the rain gutters? How long into the future will such gardens endure? How many more springs like this will my grandchildren see?
My spring fever is breaking. Soon it will be time to say adios to this sweet season with the last pit fire of the year. With friends under glorious stars, we’ll lament our hypocrisy in the cool night air as we savor the carbon emission of our crackling mesquite. We’ll drink the nectar of the agave. And we’ll toast the coyotes heralding the approach of our long summer.
I’ll get right on that. But for now I think I’ll just watch hummingbirds from my hammock in the shade.