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Over Easy: All in on pollen

For the Valley News
Published: 6/4/2021 11:44:47 PM
Modified: 6/4/2021 11:44:43 PM

It’s been another great pollen season, at least for our plant neighbors and friends. For many humans it’s been a time of watery eyes, aching sinuses and languishing fatigue. Not to mention headaches that roll in like thunderstorms and head-in-a-vice pressure on the old cranium.

Bah, spring.

On certain recent days, my head felt as heavy as a bowling ball, and cognitive functions were strictly in the gutter. I would attempt to concentrate, but before you know it I was staring out a window and daydreaming, or maybe daydrowsing — not warm, pleasant thoughts, more like the cold and damp of a fog.

Now and then I would sneeze, a full-body earthquake, but all it did was clear space for more pollen. And what a bounty there was. Some mornings our cars were coated by a powdery yellow-green sheen. Mother Nature, or her minions, was mocking those who think we can make the Earth and stars bend to our wishes.

Though my brain slowed, I pushed ahead. I spilled coffee, misplaced my keys, left my computer glasses behind when I would need them. I walked into the market sans mask. I slinked out in shame.

Addled with pollenhead, I developed an idea that seemed perfect for the moment. Why complain about spring allergy season and do nothing about it? Surely we can do more than endure.

Welcome, in my imagination, to the Upper Valley Pollen Fest. First we name a Pollen King and Queen, two allergy sufferers who look peppy even in their misery. Surround them with a Pollen Court — members would not have to be similarly energetic. They could just mill about and sigh as a counterpoint to the royals. Dress them in dreary shades of gray and black.

Hold a Pollen Dance, featuring slow music suitable for shuffling. In the Pollen 5-K, runners would take a break every hundred feet or so. A Sneezing Contest probably wouldn’t meet CDC guidelines, at least until everyone is vaccinated, and it would be hard to judge if masks were still de rigueur.

I don’t think it would matter much what was served in the food tents, since allergy sufferers can’t muster enthusiasm over sensory matters. Maybe spicy chilies could reach them, but I don’t know.

Of course, kids would want to learn things at the Pollen Fest. That’s all I ever wanted to do when I was a kid, and I’m sure that instinct is even stronger now. The Pollen Power exhibit would be a sure hit. Don’t underestimate the science. According to Wikipedia, “Pollen is a powdery substance consisting of pollen grains which are male microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce male gametes (sperm cells). Pollen grains have a hard coat made of sporopollenin that protects the gametophytes during the process of their movement from the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants, or from the male cone to the female cone of coniferous plants. If pollen lands on a compatible pistil or female cone, it germinates, producing a pollen tube that transfers the sperm to the ovule containing the female gametophyte.”

Of course, all the erotic stuff would have to be edited out.

Also for tender minds, someone will have to come up with crafts for the festival. Pollen candies? Huggable Pollen Pals? Or, for the nerdy set, make-your-own microgametophyte? I leave it to the crafty folks to decide. And how about a mascot? Let’s name him Drippy, and start from there.

There are plenty more ideas that need to be fleshed out, but that’s all I can offer for now in my weakened state. (A pollen flyover with crop dusters is probably out.) No one has exploited pollen tourism, so allow me a dad joke when I say its potential is nothing to sneeze at.

People right now are thankful to go anywhere. I hate to say they are desperate, but they are, and we could probably get busloads of them to come just to see the new roundabouts in White River Junction if we marketed them right. Super circles! Wonder roundabouts! And games of ring-around-the-rotary.

Think an Upper Valley Pollen Fest would be a flash in the pan? According to people who are smarter than me, climate change is likely making the spring pollen outbreak even worse. An article on the Vox website said humans are partly to blame, because of their role in climate change. Spring is coming earlier, and there’s more carbon in the air, making the environment pollen-friendly. Said Vox: “Some estimates show that pollen counts of all varieties will double by 2040 in some parts of the country, depending on what pathway the world takes on greenhouse gas emissions.”

Ouch, achoo, pass the Claritin.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at

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