The Edge of Calm

Willie the terrier is happy I’ve finally perched in front of the computer. Temperatures pushed 80 today, and I pushed through every urge to relax. He, of course, had many urges to relax as well, but must keep track of me.

This is the end of a week in which I almost lost track of “firsts”: First tulips, aptly Tulipa kaufmanniana “The First”; first daffodil, a long-term resident in the median; first blues and purples from Chionodoxia and giant crocus; first Pasque flower, although Easter is weeks away; first day with Rose back to work, despite a cold so terrible she reported she’d have to feel better to die; first leaflets on so many shrubs – especially the bower-like Cotoneaster in the back yard; the brilliant yellow forsythia, first shrub to bloom; apricots in the alley, first of the fruit trees in flower; first appearances of rhubarb, delphinium, allium, buds in the front porch tulips; and the first supper eaten outside.

Despite what seems like an enormous amount of activity, spring is still a wrestling match. Spikes of cold followed by warming trends, insufferable winds. All of it creating peril for the life which must emerge. I race to clear gardens of debris and clock crucial billable hours only to get jerked indoors by the chain of inclemency. Rough handling all around.

It occurred to me that if the Inuit can have names for every type and condition of snow, Coloradans might extend our vocabulary for Spring. Perhaps if the season was longer, or our lives depended on such an intimate diversity of knowledge, our perceptions would be keener, and the language arise. Yet another bubble of thought formed in an excess of labor and released in the ethereal exhaustion at the end of a day.

At the end of this day, I lifted Willie to a spot on the vintage bent bamboo and aqua vinyl couch on the front porch. Then, I turned on the sprinkler and sat beside him with a deep bowl of soup. Strains of John Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels” hummed to the rhythm of pattering water, “I’m just sittin’ here watching the sprinkler go round and round…” And watching the sky, knowing just the moment when, behind the house, Pikes Peak began consuming the sun. The overhead blue faded. The breeze faltered and cooled.

Perception dogs me in this week of leapfrogging firsts and mind-altering fatigue. The muffintop puffs over the skinny jeans, yet the skinny jeans zip. I cartwheel over an apparent abundance of new, exciting, and colorful life, yet the objective lens of my camera finds a patchy array. The apricot in full bloom sends thrills to my marrow, yet it abides in an alley with dumpsters, power lines, and cars, and there is a freeze coming.

When the fever of Spring no longer sends one into a mating frenzy, the soul burns with another yearning. There is no time to lose. See things as they are yet find beauty.

For more than a year, I have admired the tenacity of some unattended iris, clinging to the corner of a garage on the alley. It stands near a rental unit in a four-plex, and I imagined an undaunted gardener compelled to plant them and equally compelled to change homes and leave them. I wondered how long they’d bloomed there. Why choose such a bleak spot? Were they planted in the last decade to see reliable afternoon rains? I also fantasized about liberating them. Last fall someone weed whacked them while still green. Last week, someone laid a cement block on them, which I moved aside. This morning I found them uprooted and tossed, the newly emerged leaves still turgid. Clearly, someone despised them, either hating iris on principle or thinking they were weeds.

I gathered each chucked rhizome, and as Willie walked me on, I rocked between outrage at the abuse of beautiful plants and acerbic glee that someone spared me the work of digging them. My plant crime forensic skills aside, I also remember that violence against iris isn’t the only kind perpetrated near by. How can I ignore voices raised in drunken argument, a little girl gruffly led away by her dad from a spill off her bike, patrol cars arriving down the street with sirens blaring. That all of this awareness fills my thoughts within footsteps of the misprized iris illuminates the shifting ground of perception, the unsettled beliefs and experiences of a middle-aged woman walking a neighborhood into fresh identity.

There is no time to lose. See life as it is. Intend beauty.

In the hours since I began feeling my way through this writing, Willie has shifted positions without waking, keeping himself supple, not allowing the sediments of daily process or old age to settle in hip, shoulder, or spine. He dreams, feet paddling, eyebrows twitching. Twice I heard then saw his tail wag, swatting the canvas covered pillow.

Rest well, Willie. Tomorrow, I’ll plant evicted iris, and I need you to watch and remind me that I owe us both some rest.