No matter what the calendar says, spring has arrived in my foothills neighborhood. It’s in the air. It’s covering my driveway. It has blanketed our cars until it’s hard to tell what color they are. It’s thick on the plants in our garden and has wafted in and covered all of the tools on my workbench in the garage. There was even a thin layer of it on my computer monitor and keyboard as I sat down to write this morning. But the worse part is that it’s in my eyes and nose and lungs.
For whatever reason – lack of rainfall, this year’s roller coaster “winter” temperatures, George Bush, the sequester, who knows – the air all across the Crescenta Valley is thick with yellow pollen. I might be hyper-sensitive, but the pollen problem seems particularly severe in my neck of the woods. Before my wife drove off to work this morning, for example, I had to hose off her car just so she could see out the windows. There was a thick stream of yellow yuck running down our driveway as I squeegeed her windows clean. Before I was even finished, however, I noticed that fresh yellow powder had already fallen on the hood of her car.
“Quick, drive away now,” I pleaded to her through the driver’s side window as she sat inside with the engine idling, “or you won’t be able to see out again!” She blew a kiss, wished me luck and floored it, roaring down the driveway, leaving me in a swirling cloud of allergens. With the hose in one hand and squeegee in the other, I stood and watched as she vanished into the yellow haze. Wishing I had had the forethought to put on a filter mask before venturing out into the murky morning, I looked around in wonder at my own private hay fever hell.
There are several towering, old growth pine trees either on or leaning over our property whose branches right now are heavily laden with bright yellow, grenade-like pollen pods. They hang high above the ground, just waiting for the slightest breeze to nudge them loose and send them plummeting to the ground.
When these pods burst, they release a puff of pollen that you can actually see disperse into the air and get carried away. But the real excitement happens when all of this yellow menace meets the business end of a gas-powered leaf blower. As convenient as these tornado generators with shoulder straps might be, when I hear the unmistakable sound of a two-stroke engine revving up nearby, I can’t close all of our windows and doors fast enough. I also instinctively grab the keys so I can roll up any open car window, then have to quickly gather up any laundry hanging near the washer and dryer in our garage lest it become dusted with a yellow patina of powder. Fun times, indeed.
Just now, looking out at our front yard from my second story office balcony, it looks as if we’ve been repeatedly strafed by a crop duster with powdered lemon Jello® in its tanks. Everything in sight is blanketed with a thick yellow film. With each puff of a breeze, more pollen is released from nearby trees and drifts slowly through the air. I can actually see well-defined tire tracks on the driveway where we’ve driven our cars the past few days. Talk about yellow snow!
In researching pollen for this column, I learned that the lifespan of a pollen grain (or at least its usefulness in fertilizing or “pollenating” another plant that it happens to land on) can be as little as two hours. On the other hand, its ability to produce the allergic reaction not-so-affectionately known as hay fever can last indefinitely. Well, isn’t that just ducky.
Looks like it’s going to be one long, sneezy, drippy spring.
I’ll see you ’round town.