Bugs, noisy birds, home fixers usher in a new season

March 27, 1995|By JACQUES KELLY

Hello bees. Hello flies. Goodbye to the mice that take a winter's vacation under my stove.

Another Baltimore spring has arrived.

How do I know?

I'm looking out the window overlooking St. Paul Street. Two crows the size of aircraft carriers are battling for French fries some slob has tossed into the gutter. There's also the remains of a fast-food lunch. The crows will no doubt get indigestion and start cawing at an even earlier hour in the morning.

I love the sound of singing birds in these dawning hours. But only if it could remain melodically pleasant. Is it my imagination? Why does it seem that for every one song bird there are two arguing crows?

This is the last week of what I think of as winter time. The Daylight Savings routine begins next Sunday. It'll be darker in the mornings initially, but only for a little while. But the amount of daylight is exploding. Once spring gets into full gear, no window shade or curtain is strong enough. So I've learned.

The phone rings. It's prospective company from New York who want to camp out in Baltimore, in my house, while they take in the cherry blossoms in D.C. and thereby avoid outrageous Washington hotel bills. My reaction? I agree and make a mental note to double my grocery order. Cherry blossom visitors never arrive in less than a famished state. At least they won't be requesting seats at Oriole Park along the first base side this year.

This call gets me thinking about my own version of spring flora. All over town a group called Beautiful Baltimore has planted stands of spring bulbs. There are parks full of yellow daffodils. The grayish white Bradford Pear trees are out. Forsythia is at its peak.

Yet for all this late March loveliness, I get a little melancholy. I slip into a guilty frame of mind and decide to do something to assuage my conscience. A trip to the hardware store is necessary. You can't have spring without a bag of garden tonic and a set of replacement clippers to make up for the ones mistakenly left outdoors all fall and winter.

While at one of these huge hardware stores within sight of the Baltimore Beltway, I realize just how potent the spring jitters are. The store's aisles are full of determined deck builders and patio planners. I eavesdrop on couples arguing over the merits of dwarf pears versus flowering crab apple. The lumber department is especially frenetic. Do-it-yourselfers are making sawdust of tax refund checks.

You can't get near the checkout lines without walking very carefully. Saturday carpenters have obstructed the aisles with 12-foot sections of pressure-treated deck planking.

The graduate students of this hardware university are the men and women who pass through the turnstiles of a department labeled "Power Tools." The merchandise is expensive here. That's why there are security barriers. But the customers examining merchandise within this precinct react as if they are the supreme elect of the weekend workers. Their attitude shows as they emerge with orange-handled devices.

I take a seat on a wood bench near the entrance to this busy arena of tools. It was easy to get the picture as customers pass through the checkout lines, their carts brimming with deck sealant and boxes of roofing nails.

It dawned on me these people were more serious than Christmas buyers. These were people on a mission. They were being propelled by the force of spring. They were tired of being March couch potatoes. They want outdoor living at any cost. Many wear shorts even though it's chilly and windy outside.

I exited the store and carefully negotiated the parking lot. Every car seems to possess a wide load.

The trip to the hardware store seems to have chastened me. I've made the effort. But then, just as I try to get inside my house, a mass of recently liberated gnats settles over my head.

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