Columns, Grace Notes

Greet the spring

I ceremoniously carried my snow shovel to the garage in early April. As I did so, I announced to my neighbor, “I declare the end of winter.”

Never mind that snow was in the five-day forecast and that I had placed the shovel just inside the entrance to the garage, for easy access. I was going to spend the day in the garden.

The first day in the garden each year is akin to the opening day of the baseball season or the first day of summer vacation. It is the best!

Jean Johansson

I had watched the progression of the snowmelt in my neighborhood this year with the anticipation of an archeologist.

Armed with a rake, hand pruner, lopper, and shears, I energetically raked leaves, birdseed waste, and the remains of winter flotsam and jetsam off the garden soil. I pruned branches from shrubs that had been broken when shovelsful of snow had been hefted onto them. I cut down ornamental grasses and what remained of flower stalks and seed heads that I had intended for winter interest, and stuffed it all into lawn bags. My “winter interest” had been interesting for about two weeks between the time I put the garden to bed last October and the heavy snowfall in early November that had buried all of it.

Leaves from a dizzying variety of plant species were already emerging from the soil — including tulip, bleeding heart, peony, coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, and rhubarb. The yellow and the purple crocus blossoms were concluding their contribution to heralding spring, and the forsythia buds were just about to pop and take center stage. About the time I was approaching spring giddiness, I was brought back to reality with the sighting of saw-toothed dandelion leaves and the scalloped leaves of creeping Charlie.

Resurrection and new life

I look forward to witnessing the unexpected in the spring. A season that is so alive can’t seem to contain itself. That April morning, when I was returning from a walk, the wings of a pair of mallard ducks whistled above me just before their webbed feet touched down on the roof of a neighbor’s house. I chalked up to spring fever the sight of ducks on a roof. The same day, a Black Swallowtail butterfly in flight surprised me by zigzagging past me.

I had watched the progression of the snowmelt in my neighborhood this year with the anticipation of an archeologist. As each crusty layer of frozen crystals gave way to the next, the snow revealed items of daily life that it had held for an era equal to several months: a newspaper encased in a plastic bag that, instead of landing on my front step, had been delivered via an errant toss to the middle of my yard; a red mitten with embroidered ribbon trimming the wrist; a baby-blue blanket with an embossed seashell design.

That first spring day in the garden I discovered two wiffle balls (belonging to my sports-loving neighbor boy), a small sphere made of blue rubber that looked like it would feel at home softening the top of a metal pole, and an empty plastic container labeled “Almond Butter” (no doubt blown into my yard from a neighbor’s recycling bin).

A 12-inch-wide strip of boulevard soil borders a nearby snow emergency route. The depth of the snow was such by February that, as I walked along the sidewalk, I could touch the top of the snowmound with my fingertips without bending down. I knew that daylily bulbs were resting in the soil under that heap of snow. I wondered if they would be strong enough to withstand all the salt, sand, and snow that had been flung onto their bed this winter by snowplows and snowblowers.

The first day I spent in the garden this spring, I saw a field of daylily leaves poking up from that strip of boulevard soil. All around us, awakening life continues to proclaim the promise of resurrection.

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