As waves of pollen sweep the nation from south to north, sniffles and sneezes follow in their train, along with the occasional muttered curse.
At the right time of year, wind in the pines can produce billowing clouds of yellow stickiness. Oak and other hardwoods are less showy, but their profusion of fertility also drifts across the landscape and clings to everything from shoes to eyeglasses to our upper respiratory systems.
The asphalt paving of our cul-de-sac took on a pale-yellow cast last week. Lemony rivers cascaded down the driveway when I washed the car while drifting cherry blossom petals gave my Prius a case of automotive acne.
Most trees and grasses don’t take the chance of relying on bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, or other critters to carry their male gametes directly to an appropriate female stigma.
Instead, they erupt with a profligate explosion of pollen designed to coat everything within sight so there’s no chance of missing the flowers. That looks like an increasingly good strategy as bees and other natural flower-to-flower pollinators have been in decline.
Few of us are totally immune to the irritation of pollen. Our bodies recognize the tiny grains as alien invaders and try to wash them out with a flood of histamines that can get out of control for the 30% to 40% of people who have seasonal allergies.
Spring pollen season may bring misery to some and inconvenience to all, but let’s give credit where credit is due. Without it, we’d be missing most of the trees that bring us shade and soak up carbon dioxide – along with most of our land-based foods.
That’s rather important.
I for one am grateful for nature’s incredible extravagance that brings us food and flowers, nourishment for the body as well as the soul.
Creation’s spendthrift clouds of pollen bring to mind the staggering profligacy of grace with which God has also showered humankind, offering forgiveness undeserved and available to all.
Sniffles notwithstanding, spring is my favorite time of year. Curse the blanket of pollen if you like: I will rejoice in the covering of grace.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.