Sunday, April 1, 2012

Those Over-Sexed Pines by Margaret Maron

Margaret Maron is the author of twenty-seven novels and two collections of short stories. Winner of several major American awards for mysteries (Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, Macavity), her works are on the reading lists of various courses in contemporary Southern literature and have been translated into 16 languages. She has served as president of Sisters in Crime, the American Crime Writers League, and Mystery Writers of America.

Her most recent novel, "Three-Day Town," is Margaret's 17th title to feature series character, Judge Deborah Knott, a district court judge in "Colleton County," North Carolina. Deborah is in her late 30s, the youngest child and only daughter of an elderly ex-bootlegger who also has 11 sons. As a district court judge, she ranges all over the state and her cases are set in such interesting places as Harkers Island down on the coast (Shooting at Loons), among the potters in central NC (Uncommon Clay), at the High Point furniture market (Killer Market), and in the Blue Ridge Mountains (High Country Fall). 
Maron's first series was set against the New York art world with Lt. Sigrid Harald, NYPD as the main protagonist. "Three-Day Town" (which is up for an Agatha this year) takes Deborah to NYC where the two women meet for the first time.
Maron says, "The mystery novel is the peg upon which I hang my love and concerns for North Carolina as the state transitions from agriculture to high tech, from a largely rural countryside to one increasingly under assault by housing developments and chain stores" and her books have looked at problems of race, migrant labor, politics, and unstructured growth.


by Margaret Maron

50 weeks out of the year, I love living in eastern North Carolina.  I can endure summer’s 100° heat and its 85% humidity without too much grumbling.  Mosquitoes can be foiled and sandspurs avoided.  Our winters?  Pathetically mild with seldom more than a light dusting or two of snow. Even the mildew of autumn’s hurricane season doesn’t bother me too much.  These are a small price to pay for living in this “goodliest land.”

But – and it’s a huge BUT – every March or April depending on how early spring comes, I want to pack a suitcase and go to the beach or head for a big city with concrete canyons because our beautiful pine trees turn into pollen factories, wafting down tons of sticky yellow dust that gets on everything.  For two long weeks, anything left outside is immediately covered, be it a car, a lawn chair, a cat or a small child.

I can’t work in my gazebo and if I open a window a mere crack on the leeward side of the house, every surface will need dusting ten minutes later.  Even the gentlest breeze can turn a sunny day into a yellow fog.

When it rains, pollen washes off the roof into the buckets I set out to catch the water.

Nature is prodigal with her bounty, but this is ridiculous.  See these male strobili?

Each one of those little male clusters put out thousands of pollen granules.  Keep in mind that this is only part of one branch on one pine tree. Our house is surrounded by hundreds of these trees.  Can you blame me for whining?

While researching one of my Judge Deborah Knott books, I came across a remark from a judge weary of dealing with cocky young male offenders.  He said, “The amount of testosterone present in the average male is way more than what’s needed to keep the species going.”
I look at all these clouds of sticky yellow dust swirling through the air, every speck a tiny male pine sperm, and I am reminded of that exasperated judge.  How much pollen does it take to perpetuate this particular species, for heaven’s sake?

Fortunately, we’ve had lots of rain this year and the weather has stayed fairly cool, so it hasn’t been as bad as in earlier years.  Another day or two, one more spring shower and I’ll be able to go work in my gazebo again, grateful to live amid lilacs and azaleas . . . and yes, even the pines.


Kaye Barley said...

Margaret, Hello and Welcome!! ALWAYS makes me happy to have you here.

Our pollen is not quite as bad as yours, but it's the earliest allergy season I can remember ever having here. Let's hope it passes quickly - I know you're itching to get back in your gorgeous gazebo.


Kaye Barley said...

Margaret, Hello and Welcome!! ALWAYS makes me happy to have you here.

Our pollen is not quite as bad as yours, but it's the earliest allergy season I can remember ever having here. Let's hope it passes quickly - I know you're itching to get back in your gorgeous gazebo.


Margaret Maron said...

Kaye, I've been told that pine pollen isn't an allergen. Instead, the real spring culprits are the oaks which bloom at the same time and which do have allergens. Both are annnoying though!

jenny milchman said...

I had no idea those...things on the pine trees produced...that! I can imagine your feeling ruffled, although what a beautiful part of the world you live in!

I'm very excited to discover your work, Margaret--I'm new to it, but it was called to my attention in a most delightful way last week, and now Kaye has you here at M&M--a lovely convergence.

Patricia Stoltey said...

The butterfly in the lilacs is a stunning photo, but I think I'm pretty glad I don't live in pollen country. My allergies would go nuts.

I'm a big fan of your Deborah Knott series, Margaret. Thanks to Kaye for hosting you here.

Reine said...

Wow, I made two posts that were just deleted-- One more try!

Great to see you here, Margaret! I'm reposting - with Captcha's kind permission, and if I don't die trying first - this post I just made on your FB page... Scout and I had dinner with the most fabulous librarian friend and her partner last night, and she could not stop talking about your wonderful books! xxxxx

Elaine Viets said...

Hi, Margaret. I've been in Atlanta during the yellow pine season. We had to wash the car every morning so we could drive it.
If anything, your description was restrained.

lil Gluckstern said...

Thank goodness it's only a few weeks a year. Your flowers are beautiful

Margaret Maron said...

Thanks, everyone. It rained again during the night and from all the male parts lying on the ground, I think we're past the worst of it.