Friday, April 21, 2006

The Sky is Crying




"The sky is crying. Look at the tears rolling down the street"

Until this week, I never pondered those classic blues lyrics by Elmore James as anything more than a metaphor for intense longing and heartbreak. These pictures are from various sites.. I downloaded them the other day, and they show the insanity of the sandstorm a bit better.


The sand is gone, for now. And now the cottonwood have arrived. The last two days have actually been quite beautiful… still a little cool but bright and sunny. But today there was all this white cottony stuff blowing through the air. In some places, there was just a crazy amount.

I went car shopping today, which is a whole other story and one I will definitely relate sooner than later. But this guy who runs Expat Car Service picked me up and drove me to some dealers. We were driving down Jing Shun Lu and at one point the air was just crazy thick with all this blowy white stuff. It was like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

I was wondering what the hell it was and what the hell was going on. A few days ago the sky dumped sand and dirt on us and now this. I am starting to understand how Pharoah and his ancient Egyptian subjects must have felt. Duck for the locusts! Watch out for the raining blood! I would gladly free a race of slaves and risk my Kingdom to stop this madness.

So I started asking around and got a few different answers.. "the poplar” or “the cottonwood.” Apparently, a few years back the Chinese government realized that they had no friggin trees left in this huge country – thanks Chariman M! – so they went on a huge tree planting campaign. And they chose lots of poplar cottonwoods (I looked it up online to verify the name) and they only planted female trees, so they all release the cottony seeds. Maybe someone who understands arboreal facts better than I could verify this – Dixie?

Anyhow, it’s nutty. And the allergies I only discovered two or three years ago did not enjoy the stuff, which was at times swirling around in big white whirlpools. I have also been told that over time – and they can last 4-6 weeks! – they pick up dirt and start swirling around grey and black. I will keep you posted and also take some pictures.

Here are some poplar cottonwood facts, I found online at an arboreal site:


We all concede that the cottonwood has faults. The brittle wood cannot withstand the winds, the leaves drop untidily through the summer, the cast-off staminate catkins are a nuisance in spring, and the fluffy cottony seeds shed so deliberately in early summer by the fertile trees fill the air and the meshes of door and window screens to the exasperation of the whole neighborhood.

But go out into one of the little breathing spaces called parks in a great city like New York in the early spring days when the children of the tenements and the stuffy flats are brought out for a first breath of the spring air. The old cottonwood has its buds all a-glisten with promise, and in a few days longer the dainty little leaves twinkle all over the treetop with the most cheerful green. In the late summer, in spite of its losses, the tree still carries a bright green crown of shade which turns yellow before it falls. With all its faults, it endures the heat of cities, and the dust and soot with commendable patience. In the protection of great buildings it does not suffer by winds as it does in exposed situations.

There are better, longer-lived trees for the open country, but in cities the cottonwood has a use and a message of cheer for rich and poor who look up and learn to know the tree. Unlike the variety next described, the cottonwood takes on dignity with added years.