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.
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.