Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The unbearable lightness of fluff

Photo: This is not snow, but cottonwood down, caught in the crevices of a paved footpath. I took the photo in Bear Creek Park.

When the cottonwoods shed the light fluffy seed casings, the "cotton" for which they are named, it floats down more slowly than an early snowfall in a cold dry climate.

It is so light that it drifts into cracks and crevices, blown there by the slightest movements of air.

If doors are left open, it drifts into the house and rides in a leisurely fashion on small currents into remote corners. At the end of fluff season, houses need vacuuming and porches need sweeping.

Meanwhile, like the first fine snow of winter, cottonwood fluff is a soothing harbinger of a seasonal change; its lightness and the brevity of its presence make it seem magical.

Back in 2010, fluff season came earlier; this year what we've seen of summer so far has been late and cold. This makes me wonder whether the timing of fluff might reveal the weather of coming seasons. Was fluff one of the signs in the Old Farmer's Almanac our forbears set so much store by?

Maybe it should be. Fluff could be bringing us arcane messages that are going right over our heads.

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