"I hope she knows you only like the beginnings of things."
I remember hearing this line when watching Mad Men one day, and while it was referring to the breakup of two characters on the show, I couldn’t help but think how much it speaks to a greater human characteristic. Do we not all love the start of something new? Isn’t an infatuation with the promise of beginnings a universal condition?
By early August, the flowers in my concrete pots are hanging limp over the side, struggling for a slight gasp of a cool breeze or a late afternoon shower. The green leaves on Division Avenue aren’t quite as vibrant as they were in mid-June. The red buds on my crape myrtles have begun to dry out and brown; pink remnants of July lay at their feet. Late summer has finally stifled what once was a golden promise of spring.
But in March, I imagine the colors that are just on the edge of bursting. I see the color green in a fuzzy, surreal sort of way—the distant buds on faraway trees beginning to emerge. The sun hangs on a little longer in the afternoon. The air is crisp; the sun is warm. Without a doubt, I live in the most wonderful part of town to experience spring. The trees are hundreds of years old. The bushes have been flowering each year like clockwork. As April approaches, the azalea bushes burn with a pink florid flame, and as summer settles in, the smell of gardenias floats through the air at dusk. The rebirth of life each spring is beautiful anywhere you go in Jackson, but it’s downright sacred in midtown.
When I moved into the Lambuth area in July of 2013, the green of spring had already begun to fade. I still was able to enjoy shaded walks on the sidewalks of my street and blooming crape myrtles in my front yard, but I began to wonder what I could add to my lawn to make it more colorful. I would walk the neighborhood and poach ideas from my neighbors, but what started as a walk of thievery turned into admiration for the bursts of color I saw on each street. Red roses bloomed at the end of Division. On Wisdom Street, the height of the gardenia bushes leveled with my own; their blooms hadn’t arrived yet, but their glossy leaves were already starting to shine. In the Westwood Historical District, the roots of the old trees were breaking through the concrete sidewalks, and the leaves were flowering in the April sun. As I made my way down West Grand, the sidewalks were lined with crape myrtles waiting for their late June arrival. Each street, from West King to Walnut to Roland and back to Division, had its own unique floral perspective.
I began finding an array of excuses to get myself out in the beauty of spring in my neighborhood. I would walk the vacant field of Westwood Gardens at dusk and see the golden light falling on the new growth of wild flowers and vines. The sun dipping behind a tree line added a hue of orange haze that spread itself over the green field. On Saturday mornings, I would ride my bike to the farmers’ market downtown and see the colors of the freshly grown vegetables for sale on the tables. The Bradford pear trees lining the park beside the pavilion bloomed with a white radiance.
That spring, I planted two rose bushes in my front flower bed. I planted Creeping Jenny and begonias in my concrete planters on my porch. I wanted the color of my yard to match the color of my neighborhood. I dug up old bushes and planted azalea bushes that I knew would add a burning pink at the front of my house. Over the next few years, I added vines that would crawl up my concrete posts on my front porch. I planted a white rose bush in my backyard that would accompany the seasonal blooms of white, red, and pink that all announce their arrival in late April.
Every spring holds the promise of growth and color—a freshness from the death of winter. Each March holds the hope of warmth and light. The new blooms are the expression of rebirth and restoration, the cyclical rhythm of the beginnings we all love.
On April mornings, when the sun has just broken the horizon, I can lie in my bed and see the white blooms of the dogwood trees lining the sidewalk across the street from my house. When the breeze blows hard enough, it can look like a snow shower in May. White blooms drift through the air and settle on the newly green grass a few houses away. Of course, the beginning of spring only lasts for a few weeks. The season of new growth is short, but the hope it brings is enough to forget the polarities of January and July.
Gabe Hart is an English and Language Arts teacher at Northeast Middle School. He was born and raised in Jackson, graduating from Jackson Central-Merry in 1997 and Union University in 2001. Gabe enjoys spending time and traveling with his daughter, Jordan, who is eight years old. His hobbies include reading, writing, and playing sports . . . even though he’s getting too old for the last one. Gabe lives in Midtown Jackson and has a desire to see all of Jackson grow together.
Photographer Lauren Smothers grew up in West Tennessee, Central Asia, and Western Europe. She has a B.A. in English from Union University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from The University of North Carolina, Greensboro.
Photographer Courtney Searcy likes to design things, take pictures, and write words that tell good stories about their community. Jackson became home after she graduated from Union University in 2014, where she studied Graphic Design and Journalism. She currently works as marketing manager at TLM Associates while continuing to make paper goods on the side via her business Fine Company. She thinks the best things in life are porch swings, brunch, art, music, and friends to share it all with.