Redbud Trees, I81, VA

The early blooming rhododendrons far behind us, we turn off the secondary highways onto Interstate 81, resigned to the end of spring flowers.

Well, I’m resigned. The Big Guy is glad to be on a highway where we can make time.

Well, where we can cover lots of miles in a relatively short time, since you can’t really make time. I wonder why we say that.

But I digress.

Homeward bound from a few months in Myrtle Beach, we had diverted through Georgia to see the spring flowers. You know, the ones that beautify television coverage of The Masters in early April every year. You know, the rhododendrons and azaleas. You know, I’m not sure I know the difference. Maybe you know.

Anyway, we hit Augusta and then moved on to Gainesville, home of a secondary site for the Atlanta Botanical Garden: one that we can visit without having to, you know, go to Atlanta, where (so I’m told) they ask if you want coffee or Cokeâ„¢ with your meal.

It’s a dreary day, and the plantings are not mature — the garden will celebrate its first anniversary in May — but it’s nice to see any flowers. You know?

Close-up of pink tulips, wet from the rain

Close-up of variegated tulips in bed of mixed flowers.

And then we resolutely turn our noses homeward. It’s time.

As we follow our GPS up hill and down dale through her very own “shortest time” route, we see view after breathtaking view of rhododendrons in full bloom (Or, maybe, azaleas. I mean, who knows?) and forsythia, enlivening otherwise unremarkable farmyards and commercial frontages.

Bright yellow forsythia in full bloom.

But all that was yesterday. Or was it nine years ago? Well, yes, the forsythia picture was taken nine years ago, but in the same general part of the world at roughly the same time of year.

Anyway, that was then, whenever then was, and this is now. Today we’re on a mission to get home before the polar vortex descends and two – count ’em, two – forecast clippers come barging along our route of flight. Umm, drive.

So the Interstate it is. No more Scenic Byways.

Slumped in the passenger seat, a little stunned from the early start – yeah, that’s it – I’m staring blankly out the windshield, streaked with yesterday’s bugs and today’s spitter spatter of rain. I’m thinking of the swathes of redbud and forsythia we saw yesterday – a hundred yards in a few spots – and regretting their loss, and then it begins.

Somewhere east of the Christiansburg exit, I start to see redbuds. First it’s a few. Then they’re everywhere: along both sides of the divided highway and filling the median.

I stare blankly for tens of seconds – precious tens of seconds, as it turns out – thinking that a single photo through the car window wouldn’t really capture the effect, especially on a dreary day. What’s needed, of course, is video.

D’oh! I have that technology. And so I take my first out-the-dirty-car-window video.

Taken at 70 MPH, a technical and artistic masterpiece it ain’t, but it captures some of the experience: some of the glory of that ribbon of magenta. I admit it, I had to look it up to see what that totally totally improbable colour is called. And the joy of looking things up is the things you find that you weren’t looking up: in this case, that the redbud’s scientific name is cercis canadensis! It’s one of us!

Who knew?

I hereby propose the bit of Interstate 81 between Christiansburg and oh, say, Roanoke, as a combined American and Canadian National Treasure. It’s theirs because it’s their Interstate; it’s ours because it’s our tree. That’s fair, don’t you think?

And if joint National Treasure status is overreaching, then at least it should be designated as a Scenic Byway. At least in redbud-blooming season. I’ll be submitting my video to the panel of judges who determine such things as soon as I can find them.

D’oh! These days, that’s us! You know?


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10 Responses to Redbud Trees, I81, VA

  1. Marion says:

    How nice; they gave you a red carpet (well, drapes, maybe) home.

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    According to Wikipedia, their natural range does not extend to the west. Damn!

  3. Colleen says:

    Enjoy the redbuds! Polar vortex has arrived in Ottawa if we had any buds of any kind they are now frozen….

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Colleen – Yes, we’re home now and see that we should have let someone know we were coming so they could turn up the outside thermostat for us. We’re not used to this below-zero silliness.

  4. After an interminable, lonely winter in the Arkansas Ozarks where leafless silvery and brown trees defined the landscape wherever we travelled, I was walking though such bare woodlands in southern Missouri when I came upon a young redbud, the first I had ever seen. Its delicacy was fawn-like, its vivid pink and magenta blossoms a shocking statement of new life after month upon month of monotonous grey-brown. The painting I made of my woodland epiphany owed much to the style of The Group of Seven; fitting, you might say, for a tree with a Canadian implication in its name and inevitable for a Canadian “in exile.” I did not know yet that I was pregnant with a little girl but the hidden glory of the redbud and of that child nevertheless were linked in my painting. That child grew to become estranged, hidden again for a seemingly interminable winter. If I dare to allow it, Isabel, your divine surprise of a glory of mature redbuds arriving unbidden and unexpected, like my first redbud, will prepare me for a springtime of reconciliation, more shocking, more fabulous.

  5. Whooa! — at first I thought the Big Guy was pointing the car FAR to the left, then FAR to the right — about to crash — and your camera was still. A little disconcerting… but a nice blur of colour — not something we have anything of here, except the rising sap in many bushes is quite red.

    Welcome home to your own bed, soon warm.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – Well, I did try to get him to do that swivel, but he prefers to traverse straight ahead. Trial and error showed that it was better to shoot out the front window than the side – less blurry and less vertigo inducing. I’m sure there’s a sound reason for that in physics . . .

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