A Letter From the Spring

It’s not official, of course. But it is spring here in Austin. I know this because, in the past week, I noticed one of my favorite indicators of such: the redbud tree on whose dark-pink blooming catches me by surprise every year.

It’s a misleading signal, this redbud is. When I first see its bloom, I know that there will be at least one more blast of winter such as we know it down here in Central Texas. (My father used to call this bloom-then-last-blast phenomenon a “false spring.”)

And, sure enough, not two nights ago, the winds came up. There were serious thunderstorms, throwing down hail the size of peaches and hiding funnels, to our north. At sunset, a local weatherman, with barely disguised glee, noted the presence of mammatus clouds: eerie, pouch-like, yet beautiful. (Here are some pictures of mammatus clouds taken by an Australian storm chaser.)

I had to go out and see for myself. There was a honey-colored light at sunset. The mammatus clouds were like gold bubbles in some kind of ethereal broth. During the night, the winds were unrelenting. They knocked on three sides of my house. And, by morning, there was a little bit of a bite in the air.

Usually, within two weeks of the redbud’s blooming, along comes another favorite: wisteria. Now wisteria is a bipolar shrub if ever there was one. Fully nine-tenths of the year, it is nothing to speak of and has nothing to declare. Then, all of a sudden, it becomes almost too much. Grapelike clusters of pale-purple flowers. Blurred edges. Impressionistic.

Although I’ve had plenty of years to practice, I’ve never quite described wisteria in a way that does it justice. It’s almost pointless to try again. But, whenever I look at wisteria, especially from a distance, I’m drawn into a whispered world, where everything that I thought for sure was finished isn’t and everything I wanted to start has. In other words, when I stand in relation to wisteria, I’m always 13 years old.

Back in college, I once told a friend, in a moment of characteristic exaggeration, that if I could manage to live within the notes of a certain Chopin prelude, I would. (Okay, cynics, the friend was, yes, a pretty girl that I was, yes, very interested in.) And within those notes, it would always be the time of year between redbuds and wisteria.

By now, you’ve no doubt noticed that there is nothing in this “letter” about the web. Well, to bastardize Wordsworth: “The web is too much with us, late and soon, / Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.”

Just between you and me, there needs to be some kind of balance, don’t you think? There is no shortage of web advocates these days. (My 70-year-old uncle has convinced himself that he must be an idiot because he isn’t web-literate. He suspects that those of us who are think of ourselves as superior to him.) In most respects, I am a web advocate.

But, today, I’m going to shirk that duty and become spring’s publicist, not that she needs one. To that end, let me suggest that you make a worthwhile investment. No, it isn’t one of those screaming web IPOs.

No, this investment is completely different. It’s an investment in an “OBD”: an Off-Browser Day. I don’t know exactly what you’ll get for your OBD investment. I guess that makes it a little risky. But, if you are one of those seeming millions (like myself) who are willing to place semi-religious faith in companies with no earnings, then, surely, you have enough imagination to take the plunge into an OBD. Or even two.

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