America the beautiful

The beautiful spring came, and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.”

— Harriet Ann Jacobs (1813 or 1815–March 7, 1897, African American writer)

Technically the Spring Equinox arrives around March 20 each year, but true springtime usually isn’t felt until later.

This past Saturday — coincidentally May Day, the day to celebrate the changing of the seasons — had a certain feel unlike any day in the past year or so. It was sunny and cool but not cold, and the air was starting to smell like cut grass and flowers in some places.

The recent relaxation of mask guidelines by the CDC — not requiring them outdoors — seemed to bring a sense of normalcy ... at least for a day. And people were out en masse doing many nature, environmental and conservation-type activities. I’m pretty sure Saturday was a day that the coronavirus pandemic was put well back into the recesses of people’s minds.

It was a good day to be alive, on several levels, in the great outdoors.

At about 10 a.m. I saw members of the Geneva Shade Tree Committee giving away saplings at a drive-thru event. It took place by the parking lot near the Geneva Recreation Complex. Because of the pandemic, it was done in place of any Arbor Day ceremony this year.

But that is not the whole picture regarding this committee. Turns out that through the years of restricted budgets and a high demand for removal of old trees that are public safety hazards, Geneva hasn’t had money to replace trees that are taken down in the right-of-ways and in the spaces between sidewalks and curbs. It is costly, no doubt, about $500 per tree when purchased from a nursery.

The solution? The city is in the process of growing its own trees in an area at the wastewater treatment plant. Sure, those seedlings/saplings will need some time to grow, but with a goal of 100 new trees per year at a cost of about $1,200, it becomes a remarkable savings opportunity.

A short time later on Saturday, I saw people at Seneca Lake State Park planting small trees (pictured). Unbeknown to me, it was the annual “I Love My Park Day.” It is the largest single-day volunteer event in New York, according to the Parks and Trails NY website. Volunteers planted seedlings and gardens, restored trails and wildlife habitat, and helped remove invasive species.

Driving further into the park I saw others cleaning up the beach and shoreline areas.

Later in the day, I saw folks clean up the grounds of the Geneva Beach and Boat Club (established in 1913 as the Geneva Gun and Rod Club) off Route 14, south of the city.

As I continued my travels — Saturdays are always fantastic for “harvesting” feature photographs for the newspaper — I came across a well-attended flower, plant and tree auction at the Finger Lakes Produce Auction on Route 14A, not too far from the Windmill Farm and Craft Market.

At 1 p.m., on a small grassy area tucked away behind the buildings on Seneca Street in Geneva and near the parking lot off Main Street was an event called Naming Loss and Sowing Hope. Sponsored by the HWS Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Geneva NAACP, and Community Education for Transformation, attendees picked up trash in that area, then publicly mourned what many had lost this year. It was followed by planting seeds — literally — for the future.

Of course, anyone who drove by Pulteney Park Saturday couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the tulips looked in full bloom (inset photo) near the Our Lady of Peace statue and fountain.

Turns out that particular square had not been getting the attention it deserves. So two women, Chevy DeVaney and Leslie Kroeger — neither even lives in that neighborhood — took it upon themselves to approach the city about at least letting them put tulip bulbs in until the Historic South neighborhood could get a gardening group together. Geneva Community Projects ended up sponsoring the project and provided 1,000 tulip bulbs that Chevy, Leslie, HWS volunteers and a few others planted.

The beautiful thing is a tulip bulb comes back every year, often with more blooms than before.

Truly, Saturday was a great time in the Finger Lakes to welcome the spring renewal and forget, as best we can, a year unlike any other in our lifetime.

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”

— Rachel Carson ( 1907-1964, American marine biologist, author, and conservationist)

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