Jay Lacklen: All purple and fragrant

April 13, 2010 9:33:00 AM

Jay Lacklen - [email protected]


Of all Mother Nature''s gifts to mankind proffered to apologize for a long and miserable winter, none in Columbus catches my attention as stringently as wisteria.  


This brightly purple vine flower seems to cascade out of trees as a waterfall might, spreading massive quilts of royal purple over the forest. While purple is not unknown on nature''s southern color pallet, it is usually consigned to much smaller flowers that, while beautiful, do not overwhelm vision as wisteria can.  


If you venture close enough, the aroma of the flower provides another marvelous offering of penance from Mother. Though everyone will have a different description of the fragrance, to me it closely matches the tropical sweetness of a Hawaiian flower lei composed of multiple orchids that is on a par with the metallic sweetness of the magnolia bloom. The "aroma purple" will always be that of wisteria for me.  


If lovely sights demanded monetary compensation to view, wisteria would certainly command a high price. How marvelous such a view costs nothing and is readily available, for a limited time, to we common citizens. I almost fear some rich person might seize all the wisteria for himself and remove it from public view.  


Wisteria is nature''s message that winter is over and, as "Bess" sings, living will soon be easy.  


The purple vine does have competition in spring''s color repertoire, however. One that also lifts my spirits is the red clover that spreads along roadsides and on highway medians in the spring. I''m sure this is not the official plant termed red clover, but it is as close as I can come to naming it.  


I spent much effort trying to precisely identify the clover''s color. I''ve settled on a deep raspberry. The clover appears as a fine artist''s paintbrush stuck in the ground by its handle and whose brush fibers have just been dipped in rich raspberry paint. A clover concentration may contain several hundred thousand such upturned paintbrushes that bring a joyous color to Mississippi highways. (Alabama probably has them too, but I like to think Mississippi''s are a richer color).  


I am reminded of the downside of spring joy when I view my backyard wall. The voracious Mississippi forest serves notice that it may be temporarily subdued by man, but will never be defeated.  


Saplings that remained nearly invisible as they began reaching over the wall this winter are now prominent with their newly blossomed leaf cover arching over the cinderblocks. I will fight back against the encroachment with my chain saw, but I know, as I win this battle, that I, and mankind, can never win this war.  


I often ponder how long it will take the Mississippi forest to erase all vestiges of man once he is gone, to take back the space we have borrowed. Heck, nature is about to win the war for my yard and I am still here. 


How melancholy to think, once we have been erased, there will be no one to find joy in the wisteria.

Jay Lacklen is a retired Air Force Reserve pilot, who flew missions in Vietnam and Iraq. Presently he is simulator instructor at CAFB and is writing a book about his experiences in the Air Force.