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Short and sweet
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After the longest and coldest winter season in recent memory, what appears to be a short and sweet spring is here. My neighbor's Bradford pear trees blossomed last Saturday afternoon right before my eyes as I watched the NCAA "Sweet 16" basketball tournament. Realizing that it appeared to be snowing outside, in disbelief I went over to the window; there I found the blanket of white filling my field of vision to be those Bradford blossoms billowing in a fairly strong breeze, looking for all the world like the snows we experienced earlier in the year.

Then, last Tuesday morning, all appeared normal when I headed out for the day's activities. But when I returned home that afternoon, however, those evil, threatening, burgeoning yellow pollen pods had appeared in the pine trees. Just like that! I checked them again this morning, and they're as swollen as they can be, ready to burst forth with what promises to be swirling clouds of pine pollen.

I believe a visit to load up on antihistamine is in short order.

The good news is that if the pine trees and Bradford pears are showing new signs of life, the dogwoods and azaleas will be along shortly. After all, it's Easter Sunday morning, and with Easter comes the greatest golf tournament in the world, The Masters. Augusta National will be in full bloom and blossom this week, CBS will undoubtedly play syrupy theme music against background shots of azaleas in "Amen Corner," and golf fans will watch the world's greatest golfers amble around the world's most beautiful golf course, writing another chapter in legend.

Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus will serve as honorary starters this year. I imagine that there will be more than a few young folks present who will fidget as what appears to them to be two old codgers getting in the way of the real golfers. I wonder how many of what is touted as "the most knowledgeable gallery in golf" remember "Arnie's Army" and "the Golden Bear." Do they remember the crackle of electricity when Arnie would crank a drive out there, hitch up his slacks, and mount another charge up the fairway? Has anyone ever known Augusta as well as Jack?

Contemporary fans debate if Tiger Woods will return. It's irrelevant. Arnie and Jack led the way without scandal for more than half a century. Integrity stands the test of time.

And then, just like that, it'll be over. Short and sweet. The azalea blossoms will start turning brown, will wilt and fall off, and Georgians will get ready for a long, hot summer.

But if The Masters is upon us, so then must be Opening Day for Major League Baseball. Bobby Cox, in my view one of the game's very best of all time, has announced that this will be his final season managing the Atlanta Braves.

At the helm since 1990, Cox has presided over a remarkable string of consecutive division championships, unsurpassed in any professional sport. The Braves have all the pieces in place, and none would like another championship more than Bobby Cox in his final season.

Twenty years. How can it be that two full decades have come and gone since Bobby Cox inherited the worst team in baseball, playing in old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium? When you think of the cataclysmic changes to our nation, and the world, while Bobby Cox was on duty with the Braves, those decades seem anything but short and sweet.

George H. W. Bush. Desert Shield. Bill Clinton. Bosnia. Monica. Impeachment. Atlanta's 1996 Olympics. Sub-prime junk bond mortgages. Enron. George W. Bush. Sept. 11, 2001. Saddam Hussein. Weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi Freedom. "No Child Left Behind." Al Gore warming the globe. Martha Stewart in prison. Summer Olympics in Red China. Gitmo. Afghanistan. TARP. Barack Obama. Hope and change. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Health care. A divided, angry nation. Record unemployment. And that's just the short list.

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Our nation needs you more and more each day. Hey, hey, hey.

But all is not lost. Spring brings with it the promise of a fresh start, and hope that burns eternally in the human heart.

In my formative years I served as an acolyte in Greensboro's tiny Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. After our early worship service, I'd attend Sunday school and sing in the choir at the First Methodist a few blocks away.

One Easter Sunday, as I squirmed under my vestments worrying about rushing to the Methodist service, our Episcopalian minister delivered a most meaningful sermon which, in its simplicity, stopped me in my tracks.

"Jesus Christ is risen today," he said. "Alleleujah!"

Short and sweet, and standing the test of time, indeed.

Happy Easter to you and yours, friend.

Nat Harwell is a long-time resident of Newton County. His columns appear regularly on Sundays.