It’s the “false spring” one day, and the next, not. When I was at church to bake communion bread, it was spring for sure. Of course the dough knew it, and behaved accordingly.
Yesterday, the wind and various other factors contributed to further thaw the bones of my soul. While I was in my own garden trimming the lemon tree, pomegranate bushes, lavender and a few other plants, a series of great gusts came up suddenly, and made a clattering of doors and toys and other blowing-around stuff in the neighborhood.
The poem below doesn’t originate in my area of the country, so it will never perfectly fit the weather here, but I love the spirit of it, and I’m sure it will please a few of you in more northerly parts of the world. If you tend to be impatient with poems, try reading this one out loud.
TO THE THAWING WIND
Come with rain, O loud Southwester! Bring the singer, bring the nester; Give the buried flower a dream; Make the settled snowbank steam; Find the brown beneath the white; But whate’er you do tonight, Bathe my window, make it flow, Melt it as the ice will go; Melt the glass and leave the sticks Like a hermit’s crucifix; Burst into my narrow stall; Swing the picture on the wall; Run the rattling pages o’er; Scatter poems on the floor; Turn the poet out of door.
Because we haven’t had any rain in several weeks — or has it turned into months? — I had to put the hose on potted plants that aren’t on the automatic drip system. Hidden behind one big pot, this little great-grandbaby of a cactus I started was in full baby bloom. I brought her indoors to brighten up my kitchen, still lit also by the fairy lights, which are there for the days when spring is clearly not. yet.
On this feast of many names, including Candlemas, Divine Liturgy was early, and the air bracing. When we came outside afterward we didn’t want to stand on the shady porch to chat, but moved quickly into the sunshine. I walked through the church gardens back to my car, and took a picture of the bell tower on the little church, which I know I have shared before one other time when it was set off brightly by the pyracantha:
In the afternoon I walked around the neighborhood
and saw several plants that seem to be thriving in this season:
At home, some of my miniature irises have popped out!
Though there is nothing festal about this part,
I also want to wish you a Happy Groundhog Day!
Addendum: Not one minute after I published this post, I saw this video by Jonathan Pageau and Richard Rohlin, on “the forgotten Christian origins of Groundhog Day” ! I had to come back and add that link for you. Probably one of you will get to watching it before I do…
Late this morning the sun came out again, and shined on all the droplets of dew and fog. I had a date to keep in town, but I noticed through the window that the fountain was dripping instead of flowing, so I went out to put the hose in there for a few minutes. Of course I saw many glowing leaves and caught the scent of decay. How can decomposition smell so fresh, and how does the earth’s breathing wake up my whole body?
I took a few pictures and then I was happy to be on my way, on to the community garden to meet my friend Bella where we have been together a few times before. Strolling through other people’s gardens is thoroughly relaxing and nourishing; lots of interest and no responsibility. A garden comprised of dozens of gardens, each with its special personality, is even better.
Often we get to take home some treats, for immediate food or for seeds. Bella found ears of corn lying in the path, and she showed me where a few beans hung from a trellis, the seeds somehow still dry and clean inside the mildewed pods. How could I not bring a few home to try? The way those beans offered themselves suggested a small planting, which is not intimidating. And they are intriguing Mystery Beans to me as yet; does anyone here know what kind they are? Such a dreamy-creamy color… (below).
After my first big greenhouse planting project last winter, and the way so many of my starts did not take off, or for various reasons never bore fruit in my own garden, I am ready this spring to try just a few things, a few seeds…. a more minimalist garden.
What if my pumpkins had been successful, and I’d ended up with half a dozen of those gorgeous French cucurbits such as I roasted yesterday? They would have been too heavy for me to lug around the neighborhood as gifts.
I picked a bagful of meaty, rainwashed collard leaves from Bella’s plot, and the sweetest parsley ever from the free-for-all borders. The calendulas I gave my friend last spring are still blooming there under the collard canopy, and looking wintery — the sun may be bright on days like today, but its rays are sharply slanted, and every image is darkened by shadows.
Another plot owner was there with his teenage daughter, whose name I didn’t learn, but I will call her Maria. They gave me cilantro from their bed, a generous bunch of it, which I’m sure was the most fragrant I’ve ever got a whiff of, just picked after being hydrated for weeks. Maria came to talk to me while I was bent over the parsley, and we chatted about cooking. She filled me in on the hearty ham-and-eggs meal she had helped to make for breakfast this Saturday morning, and agreed that cooking for only oneself the way I do would be difficult.
Her father José talked about how his children don’t like to come to the garden with him. Maria explained, “We never want to bother getting out of bed and going outside unless something is happening that day, if we are going somewhere or people are coming over….” She smiled when I said, “Oh, but things are happening here: the plants are busy growing!”
Today, of course, was unlike any other, and I felt the restfulness of January, and cautioned how it would not even be a good idea to pull weeds when the soil was so wet. Maria and her father seemed quite contented. She may have had the same unconscious rejuvenating response in her body and psyche that Bella and I were having, being in the open air surrounded by trees and grass, fava bean plants and every kind of brassica exhaling oxygen. And Maria did get to be with people.
After our new friends left, Bella and I wandered up and down the rows, admiring every leftover bit of life, such as two tiny bright red peppers clinging to dead stick stems. We examined a banana tree that appeared to have been stricken by frost, but we hoped not killed. And we sat at a picnic table listening to the tinkle of the wind chimes, as hummingbirds swooped back and forth over our heads. It was a simple gift of a day.