For Cynthia P
Heartsick snow tumbles
Caressing tulip petals
Together they swoon
Heartsick snow tumbles
Caressing tulip petals
Together they swoon
Tuesday’s stom was so fierce, even the dandelions, snug to the ground, were blackened.
Roaring winds. Single digit lows. A mere spattering of snow. Tulipa kaufmanniana ‘The First’, filled with bees on Monday, could not bow down far enough.
Tight-fisted buds on the Carol Mackie daphne, crisped. Hyacinths blasted.
The front door tulips? Not likely this year.
Then, yesterday, new signs. Rhubarb keeps on trying.
Narcissus ‘Itzim’ and chionodoxia bloom together.
And this morning, before sunrise, rain. Enough to leave puddles.
Enough to leave a sip in the birdbath.
I couldn’t wait to go out and smell the air. I threw on a hoodie over my pj’s and dug into the earth with bare fingers just to make sure it was real. Even in the driest part of the parking median, the earth was perfectly moist.
Birds are rioting.
The mourning doves have returned.
The front door tulips have been kissed. All is forgiven.
I can only tell you what I’ve watched her do around here. That is, when she’s here, which is less and less, these days.
She makes me dizzy.
She pulls the head of a very long snake, runs back to the house, turns a knob, and makes it rain at the head of the snake. Then, she runs back through the house (tracking in lots of stuff, let me tell you), drags another huge snake, turns another knob, and makes it rain there. This goes on and on. I have a very hard time keeping track of her.
When she does sit down, it’s for a very short time. This morning she came out on the porch, turns to me, and says, “Well, Mr. Cat, we have purrzactly 10 minutes to drink this cup of coffee. So, if you want some lap time, you better come on up.” I thought about it for a while, thinking maybe she was kidding, maybe she’d settle in, and I could knead her thigh.
No such luck.
A buzzery bell went off, and so did she.
Yesterday, she walked all over the place with a big, broom-looking thing, sweeping the grass. The floor in the house is dirty, and she sweeps the grass. Then she’d pick up the piles she made (before I even got a chance to check them out), and tossed them in the back of her truck. I followed her out there, too, but she always tells me to stay away from trucks and cars and the street.
Then she took a little broom and did the same thing to the place where all the prickery things grow. One of the prickery things bit her. She said the plant was an agave, and it was just protecting her pups.
What? That’s the craziest thing I’ve heard since the time she said tulips come from turkeys. Really?
Where she goes the rest of the time, I don’t know. By the smells on her knees and shoes, though, I’d say she’s up to more of the same, where ever she is.
One day, when it was kind of cold outside, she stayed inside and worked here, where I’m sending you this message. I’d sit and stare at her to get her to feed me or let me outside. “What is it, Ed?” she’d say. “Can’t you see I’m bizzy? I have to get this done for a talk I’m giving next Wednesday.”
I tried stting in her lap when she’s like this, but something just doesn’t feel right.
I’ve heard you gardener types just can’t wait for spring. Must be true. There’s sure no waiting going on around here.
Can anyone out there tell me what she’s really been up to?
Did you hear something creak as you opened this post?
It was me.
Even though it feels as though this winter was very short, it will still take a while for muscles to regain their gardening habits.
And even though Spring is very young, I already feel like I’m catching up. How does that happen?
In the meantime, I’d like you to meet my new best friends.
Look closely. Crocus blading up through last October’s leaves on the flat corner lot.
I hear the word everywhere. Tiny crinklings as remnants of snow collapse: spring. Silver piping from the scout robin: Spring. Moaning coos escaping the ring-necked doves anxious for young: SPRING. First crocus, crocus blooming, crocus across the street, the gardeners chime: spring.
I have mixed feelings about spring.
There, I’ve said it. A gardener. I have mixed feelings about spring.
I have the expected, the normal feelings. Air that is both fresh and warm, air that is scented by awakened soil, air with a blush of humdity: Breathing this kind of air kindles exuberance. This kind of air through my hair and on my cheeks stands me up taller.
The first glimpse of green, always looked-for and yet always a surprise, is like meeting a new friend, one who seems utterly familiar.
…and yet… and yet…
Like the warning chords from the sound track of Jaws, these very delights set off a cold stream of ambivalence, as well.
I’m not a gardener who pines through winter. Not anymore, anyway. I don’t pour over catalogs or wish it wouldn’t snow. And the main reason I go through photos from the summer before, is to organize them. There isn’t time to organize them in the summer. And therein lies the rub.
Summer yields so little time.
Unlike many friends working in schools, offices, and firms of many sorts where summer offers vacation days and relaxing weekends, my summers are heaped with work. Winter is spacious, cordial, a break in routine. I get to try new things, see more friends, play. In summer, while my friends are playing and enjoying their gardens, I’m working in other peoples’ gardens and barely have time for my own.
I make time for my own, of course. Such an odd phrase — making time — as if it could be whipped up out of things you find in the fridge. Really, time isn’t made, it’s borrowed, stolen, traded. Until the next thing you know, you haven’t cooked in three weeks, you’re completely out of clean clothes, you can’t remember the last time you called your mother, and you’re friends have given up. It’s 9 PM on a Saturday; you’re standing in the gloaming with a hose in your hand; you really need a shower, supper, and a glass of wine; and you look up to Heaven and say outloud, “Do I ever get to do anything but garden?” But the One Who is Usually Listening just chuckles.
(Audible sigh). Yes. I sometimes feel ambivalent about spring.
Last year, I taught myself a gesture. When I felt summer crowding me, I jabbed my elbows out from my sides with a grunt. Then, I’d have to laugh, it felt so good.
It is spring. My decision: Summer is properous and relaxing, home and garden springs of time.
This marks the sixth week since wildfire poured like lava into the northwest edge of the city.
It may be years before many lives are resettled, homes rebuilt, and traumatized souls find gentle peace.
Even as I witness and feel the ongoing disturbance, now, as I drive up through the devastated neighborhood, a strange thing happens: I feel a welling of joy. I have the great good fortune to be present at a rebirth and to lend a hand.
From the garden I am helping to restore, I see a wild meadow greening. Some of the Ponderosa, given only a few inches of rain, have pushed green needles from their branch tips. Up on the hillside, too far away to photograph, a shrub shines in the Chartreuse glory of new leaves. Birds sing. A hawk cries.
Several helpers and I have been carefully removing what branches and twigs the heat destroyed, revealing new life. The work is irresistable. The young growth makes me giddy.
Around two weeks after the fire, a rose, spirea, Euonymous alata “Compactus” aka dwarf burning bush, and Rose of Sharon had only tiny leaf buds hidden in brown stems. The meadow beyond the garden looked like a moonscape.
Five weeks later…
In the patio bed, lungwort, lupine, hyssop, daphne and more offer all the freshness of May.
Rosa “Nearly Wild” prooves just how tough and cheerful she is.
Petunias in rowdy bloom, were only basal leaves after the firestorm. We keep looking for the wild turkeys to come hunting and pecking through the emergent meadow.
Initially, I’d thought this honeysuckle was gone. It’s not only leafed out, but just beginning to bloom.
Though much here and more elsewhere is lost, the regeneration commands my joyful attention.