The Damn Palalam

It’s yellow outside. The green leaves are yellow, and tips of the leaves of grass; the cars are yellow, the porch, the tables scattered around the property here at Aerie, and there’s a small film of yellow on the water in the birdbaths. On the skylight above my head here at my desk is a powdering of yellow that makes the sky look more sunset than midday, and even the squirrel on the porch roof outside my window, sitting there looking in at me as I eat some freshly made bread (not yellow) which he surely can smell, is yellow.

And a cardinal in the apple tree, he’s yellow, like a Dutch home first painted red and then someone decided to paint over it. Not quite speckled but, yeah, speckled.

I thought perhaps the rainier winter and the cooler spring made conditions right for a higher pollen count, and that’s true, but it also turns out the standby fall guy for all problems in nature—Global Warming—is mostly to blame. Longer springs, more rain (at least here) means my world will look like Charles Schulz’s Woodstock for some time to come.

I wash my face a lot. I hose things down, and I hope for rain, which as it turns out it is about to, heavy, most of the evening. The irony? The rain will aid the trees and grass and flowers in their growth and when the precip slips by the pollen wagons will once again circle for their next coating.

I know. I live in the woods—a lot of woods, filled with countless trees, and there are paths lined with flowers, benches next to azaleas, and those two blooming apple trees, or what I’ve come to call the squirrels’ pantry. All of it creates, displays, and spreads pollen. What is one to expect out here? It’s my own fault, really.


Pollen is a Sanskrit word, originally, coming from “palalam,” which means “ground seeds.” It was first used as a botany reference in the 1700’s, and it is said that John Bartram, American botanist, horticulturist, and explorer from the mid-18th century, was the first known person to attribute a sneezing fit to the yellow menace.

And today, I continue the sternutation, tissues in hand. But other than living on a forty-one-foot Morgan Out Island sailboat, I wouldn’t have it any other way; pollen is the tradeoff. Maybe that is why my favorite color is yellow. Sure there’s the sun, goldfinches, and lemon pound cake, but there is also the indirect beauty of yellow—nature awakening, shaking off her birthing powder, the transition of trees and the work of the bees. When I walk to the river, I hose down my face first, put some tissues in my pocket, and head out into the clouds and fog of this amber ambience.

In a month or so after the yellow turns to dusk, I’ll sit on the porch, a low hum of bees nearby, a cloud of gnats above the lawn somewhere, the subtle smell of saltwater, and the thin sound of music coming from a neighbor in the distance who always plays music I love. I’ll lay in the hammock and stare into the canopy of oaks and maples, unable to see the sky so clearly anymore, and then I’ll walk in the cool grass to find my flip flops, saunter out of the shade where the sun on my neck is one of the finest feelings I know, and I’ll walk to the river in the quiet of a country day. My mind wanders out onto the river, or up the bay, and I think of projects I’m working on while the same indigo bunting sits on a wire down the road. I’ll wade into the cool river about knee deep and just watch the gulls and osprey move out toward Parrot Island and back. It is as close to whole as I’ve known, out in nature, as I’ve been most of my life.

Entry fee? Wander for a few weeks blurry eyes and sniffling through a cloud of yellow dust like the stuff that put Dorothy to sleep outside Oz. It is so dangerously beautiful.

This is what coats my writing, has always colored my music; it is as natural to me as the sounds of city streets or the crack of a baseball bat, the sound of the ball slapping into the catcher’s mitt, or the murmur of the crowd and the occasional call of the man selling hotdogs was to my “Father of Brooklyn”; the sounds that surround us, the clouds of life around us, complete us somehow.

For me, yeah, nature at any cost. Go figure. My complete bio is deceiving: it says I was born in Brooklyn; but that’s about where any city reference ends, nearly immediately, in fact. For the rest of this six/tenth of a century, I’ve always been a boy from the country.

Covered in that frigging pollen.

Be ready for pollen season - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper

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