When I opened the door to retrieve my copy of the Morning News, I noticed the little paw prints on the welcome mat.

I could see where she came up the steps and walked across the porch. She must have lingered by the door for a bit, as the pattern of her steps seemed to go in a circle on the mat.

I could imagine Pearl, our neighbor’s cat, walking in a circle on my burgundy welcome mat the way I have seen cats do before when looking for a place to lie down. Pearl turned my welcome mat into a little paw print work of art, and it brought a smile to my face.

The clear and undeniable yellow paw prints on the dark mat made me wonder why today was the first time I had witnessed the cat’s path to my door. Then I realized it had rained overnight. Pearl had walked with wet feet onto the pollen-covered porch, then to the rug in front of the door, leaving the perfect yellow pollen paw impressions that caught my eye.

I have a love-hate relationship with trees. My husband takes a leaf blower and sends a yellow cloud of pollen down the street every day during the two to three springtime weeks that the trees are testing my patience. Not only does the pollen make a mess of my porch, my nose and eyes are unappreciative as well. I cannot help but wonder why it takes so much pollen to make another tree.

What attracted us to our home when we purchased it was the character. Much of that character was the trees. We loved the shade and coziness they provided. The heartbreak and expense those same trees would cause over the next 20 years never crossed our minds.

I remember the day we made the deal. We sat at a dining room table negotiating with the owners, a price we thought fair after seeing the “For Sale by Owner” sign by the road of the house I had admired for years. We chiseled away at the opening price, bargaining for the best cost possible.

From my seat at the table, I could see an oak tree outside the bow window of the room. There was a hole in the tree that obviously was home to a den of squirrels. Little ones were chasing each other in and out of the big hole, having a wonderful time. Thankfully the owners did not know I was thinking that having a view from the dining room table of baby squirrels playing in a tree was worth the couple thousand dollars we were haggling over.

After a price was agreed upon, we shook hands in front of that same window with the baby squirrels as witnesses. Two weeks after we moved in to our new home, a storm split that same huge oak in two pieces, leaving the baby squirrels homeless and depositing half of the tree on the roof of our new home. Then, as luck would have it, the tree surgeon removing a huge limb from our roof dropped it on our heat pump, crushing it.

I have other tree-related love-hate relationship stories. I love the spring months when the weather is still nice enough to sit on the back porch with the scents of the magnolias in the air. I hate the early summer months when the blooms shed, then the leaves fall, and after that the center pods of the blooms collect into a mess around the tree.

The huge holly trees are among my favorites, because they stay green all winter. But come spring their leaves with needle-like thorns rain down from the trees with every breeze. The magnolias and holly trees create a mess that requires weekly attention for weeks during spring and early summer months.

We don’t just have warm-weather tree problems; there are cold-weather tree irritations as well. There is a gum tree at the back that provides wonderful shade throughout the summer, the kind of shade you seek when the sun is shining bright. We love the tree, but it fills our yard all winter long with round balls that have spikes that cling to the dormant grass.

Last winter a huge limb from a neighbor’s aging hickory tree fell into our yard. We didn’t have a hickory tree, but according to the legal definition, God gifted one to us. My husband cut it up into fire-sized pieces and neatly stacked them by the road. It was during the coldest part of the winter, and the same day that he stacked it up, someone in the neighborhood claimed it to burn in the fireplace. I loved the fact that we were able to take a predicament and turn it into a positive for others.

When the pollen subsides and the weather is still cool and the sun is shining, take a walk, notice the trees and wonder how the magnificence and beauty of the trees can cause so many problems at times.

Dr. Darlene Atkinson-Moran grew up in Olanta. She always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She is retired from the education profession and now resides in Florence with her husband, Michael. Contact her at citizencolumnist@florencenews.com.