Odocoileus hemionus

The monsters are lurking. I saw them once this winter, sleeping off some twiggy meal in someone else’s see-through back yard, Odocoileus hemionus, 200 pound rats aka mule deer.

A pair of does took a dining tour of my front yard this morning. They then proceeded quite casually into the shrub bed in the back yard, where I saw them and ran in my best banshee imitation to chase them away. Willie, standing with his front paws on the bottom of the storm door window, found this remarkably entertaining. He wagged his tail and danced when I dashed back in.

The damage: They ate the greens from the front porch tulips, pulled Cream Beauty crocus out of the ground and spat them out, treated the planter like a feeder and ate the largest of the hens and chicks.

To my devilish delight, the pump sprayer with left over monster repellent, fired right up. Right now, it smells like Hades all around my place. That must be why the brave men in ties and nice shoes just rang my bell to talk to me about what the Bible says about earthquakes in Japan. Seriously.

I declined the pamphlet. The end is always near and glory beckons. I am kind to these folks, because they are some mother’s sons and daughters, people concerned about the future of earth and her inhabitants just like me.

How curious that these two sides of myself, the fury and the grace, should show themselves so closely together. It’s the quizzical motherhood of the unchilded. People often say that my gardens must be like my children, and I suppose it’s true. I will defend them with whatever means I have. People often say that I am kind and patient. One must be patient to garden and the plants seed kindness in our manners. We are all willful children.

I had three hours to spring clean a prominent front bed yesterday. Never mind my perfectionist leanings. This garden is on a budget. I’ve known this bed for some years, knew the parameters and priorities, so I set to. Trains of thought emerge in this physical labor mode.

As I rounded the second half of the bed I got to thinking: It’s probably a good thing I never had children. It means that now, because I had no financial planning, there is no one working and worrying entirely too much about how to pay for college. There is also no one spending hundreds of dollars on therapy to undo the damage from whatever mistakes or neglect I would, no doubt, have committed.

The list of all the things I’m missing has always been too long to allow. Although when one is on one’s knees, tending a garden one has true affection for yet is ultimately someone else’s, the inevitable presents itself. These others’ gardens, belonging as they do to people my age and older, will be inherited by someone who perhaps has no idea what Solomon would say about with whom the garden should stay. Nor will they likely care. It’s a likelihood I accept, while remaining in service and gratitude and honestly open to all outcomes.

There is no one, now, to inherit my garden. If I step off a curb, admiring some butterfly, and smack into a UPS truck, this is just another piece of real estate. There are no grandchildren to pick flowers nor reframe the views through their splendid eyes. Sad, yes, and yet not written in stone. “Joy”, however, is written in a smooth, black stone on my front porch, just above where the deer snacked on tulips. Who knows what family might still be looking for me?

Even the gents with the well-worn King Jameses who rang my bell this morning, though not matches for me, have found their way to my welcoming door.

More

There is more daylight.

How is it that more daylight translates into needing more time?

There’s more to do. Not only in my own flat expanse of garden waking up and begging for the cut back of blanched winter brownery, but every garden I take care of is crying for the same. Some clients are calling, anxious to get things going. Others worry me with mysterious hesitance. The one I’ve worked with the longest just says, “Good. You’re here. Now, it’s really Spring.”

More to do translates into many more mores: More to schedule, more to keep track of, more to potentially space out, more activity than my body’s been used to, more need to plan meals, more income, more temptation to hurl by thought into an imagined future, more opportunity to stay present.

Every one of those mores translates into still more mores. More activity than my body’s been used to (specifically raking debris off the lawn) gave me the first muscle spasm in my lower back since seven years ago. This meant more visits to the massage therapist, angel of the strong hands. It continues to mean more stretching. Stand up from the work and use the rake to open my arms and chest. Get up earlier and stretch before the day.

It’s a runaway train, a crisis by ancient definition.

In the Foote garden, at last, more tips of spring bulbs poke through the mulch. While only one clutch of Cream Beauty crocus is in bloom, there are more open than last week, and the bees have miraculously found them. So has Willie. An amazing feat, considering how small and pale is that huddle of blossoms the color of newly hatched chicks.

Truth be told, the garden on the whole looks barren. Here, the heart cries for more: More spring bulbs, more dark and swelling twigs, more evergreens, more stuff. Oh, the heart is a gay and greedy thing. She’s heedless of the money such more requires. Nonetheless, I placate her with agreement. More would be lovely. All in time, more time.

In all the rush of more, I’m happy that on the day I tweaked my back, I discovered something less. The spring cleaning of 900+ square feet of parking median – which last year took many wheel barrows full and at least four days to empty of weeds, trash, and over growth – will be done in less than 4 hours.

This triumph lends balance to my thoughts of more: Sometimes progress is measured by less.

I remind myself with a deep breath: It’s only March, and the day after Willie’s 15th birthday. That’s 105 in people years. He didn’t rush to get here. Just woke up and stretched day by day.

The Wait is Over, Long Lives the Wait

On Sunday morning, Willie and I discovered the first blossoms, Crocus chrysantha “Cream Beauty”, barely above the mulch and just enough sun to open. I made a gleeful dash for the camera.

We found other treasures posing around the place. Species tulips whirling up from under the Artemisia tridentata Tall Western Sage in the rock garden. And rolling up in purple splendor, leaves of some showy tulips an earlier gardener left by the front porch.

By afternoon, under a cold and cloudy sky, the crocus closed in prayerful wait.

Monday, nearly oppressive in gloom, there was nothing to do but tackle the inevitable covering my desk.

Late in the day, wet snow showered the city, staying in traces overnight. It took four long days of clouds, cold and wind to produce this shimmer. Blankets fell south and west of us. The storm got organized on its way to Kansas, or so I hear.

Tuesday is off to a cold start, but the sun is melting, first the clouds, then the streets.

I feel like more dashing. With so little snow and Wednesday’s promise of sun and 40’s, I’ll be able to work in the afternoon. Okay, that’s nearly 24 hours from now, but the urge of spring’s call is more potent than coffee, and who can sit through that?

Wrestling Season

A snowy morning in the not too distant future, I’ll answer the phone. A vintage tenor on the other end will sing: “When it’s Springtime in the Rockies…” That would be my dad, nearly 87. He’ll stop at the one phrase and chuckle. “I always say,” he always says, “the guy who wrote that song never lived in Colorado.”

Forget Spring. It’s wrestling season. Winter and Summer go to the mat. Usually a lengthy match, one takes the other down, there are many reversals, and Summer eventually wins, thank goodness.

Last Friday, the warmest reading on my front porch was a scant 20 degrees. The skylid was closed, and the rim of mountains gone from view. Easy to think on such an afternoon that winter will go on, if not forever, for many more weeks, and the reveries, borne of relaxation, will have the time and nurturing necessary to take root in the bone, coming to fruition with the same grace and ease as color bleeding into pre-dawn. The light-footed old pooch and I ended our walk as we have for weeks, surveying the ground for the first tips of green anything.

Nothing.

Until today. In the driest, homeliest swath of parking median, tulip points. Is it universal? This quickening a gardener experiences when the looked for finally emerges. No matter how long it will be before the red chalices open on tube-like stems, there is a movement, not quite muscular, under the diaphragm.

This is when another peculiar internal wrestling match begins: a sweet fragranced excitement dogged by ambivalence. I want to linger in bed, holding back the inrush of list-making and must-do’s that will crowd into the spaciousness of the winter mind. Renewed activity is welcome: Engaging rakes and clippers, staining nails and cuticles despite gloves, folding down on the haunches. It’s anticipating the crowd in the mind and the utter lack of time for tending any other garden – the gardens of words, friendships, domestic life – that feels weighty.

Sunlight washes today’s foreground into a wan weed patch, dismissable in the massiveness of foothills and peak. Sunlight also warms and calls out myriad forms of necessary action: A year’s wages earned in 8 months, every leaf feeding the essence of the plant before falling away.

The time after next it snows, Dad will phone with this question: “Why aren’t you out gardening?” I’ll answer something crazy like, “Because I’m inside gardening.” He may or may not understand, which after 58 years no longer matters to me. It’s only the call, occupying a space in his thoughts that matters. And the coming firestorm of activity that makes me harder to reach. And the pauses brought about by winter’s reemergence that find me in. How many more wrestling matches do we have?

Later today the temperature will soar into the 60’s. In the moment, Willie, almost officially a 15-year-old terrier, sleeps beside me. Dad would say: “Gee. That makes him 105 in people years.” I promised Willie and myself a walk as soon as this draft is done. At the end of it, we’ll search the ground for what may have popped out this morning, and my mind will jump ahead to the staggering list. My mind will also stumble ahead to the spring in which neither Pop nor pooch will accompany me, except in heart and memory. The wrestling match between clinging to what has been and the future. Eventually Summer, with its riches, losses, and mystery will win.