Almost the Spring I Feared the Most

It was really balmy here in Southeast Virginia a few weeks ago, and it made me a little bit nervous. Where I grew up, March was the trickiest month of the year. It really could “come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.” In other words, March could be damn cold–cold to the bone. And God help you if you didn’t have shoes that could keep your feet warm or a coat that couldn’t keep the wind from blowing right through! The ice settled in your back, arms, and shins, and made a left turn into your consciousness.   

As a kid in Northern New Jersey, when we had the one-off day in late winter that felt like spring, I worried about the forsythia that bloomed popcorn yellow on Route 287 on my way to and from Rutgers-Newark and the crocuses that poked up through the snow. What would happen if all the plants and trees thought it was spring and bloomed unwittingly, only to have the frozen Alberta Clipper descend upon the land once again? Yes, I worried about that. Because back then, the seasons were much longer than they are now. Back then, a month was a very long time, a season: Forever. 

That spring of falsehoods never occurred in my younger years, but this year came close. It began to warm up in February. It got warmer and warmer. Soon, none of us at work were wearing our coats. We had sweaters, and what I now know to be a Southern phenomenon, the men in the office began to wear shorts and “tennis shoes.” In New Jersey, we called them “sneakers,” but I’ve gradually come around to the Southern way. (Although I will never say “buggy” when I mean “shopping cart.”)

The trees began to swell with buds, and my now beloved tulips, yes, all 20 of them, began to make a showing. 

April Fools have come and gone, and I will make these observations: Last year, I had variegated tulips–red, white, bright yellow. This year, they are all white, with the exception of one yellow tulip. Also, the trees that are usually the palest of greens and reds, are all a dull brown. 

I felt somewhat somber until this week: The cherry blossoms and the redbud trees are in bloom, peonies abound in their vivid multi-colored splendor, and yellow pollen coats the cars and the lining of my lungs. Fellow allergy sufferers, I feel your pain. Fellow optimists, Oh, God, what glorious days lay ahead! 

Spring, Once so Distant, is Here

I have never been great with plants – giving me a house plant was usually just the interim step before its leaves dropped off and it keeled over and ended up in the house plant graveyard; but, apparently with age comes wisdom. You have to water plants… and provide them with sunlight. 

Knowing my personal truth, I decided to splurge in the Dollar Store and by four packets of flower seeds (for a dollar). Thinking it would be another lesson in futility, but also thinking maybe this time… I dumped the entire contents of two seed packets into two not-so-big pots, stuck them in a sunny window, and actually remembered to water them. Now, I have a frenzy of little tiny marigold plants, and a blizzard of petunias. Which takes me back to last fall when my husband helped me plant about 50 tulip bulbs. I watched a how-to video, put a layer of chicken wire over the bulbs, and took my usual wait-and-see attitude. Much to my surprise, like the gazillion tiny plants in my kitchen, the tulips have poked through the surface and are on their way to becoming bona fide flowers. Amazing!

I took the photo of the red bud trees last year. They are just about to bloom right now, but the non-gardener in me is impatient for results and in need of bursting colors, so I looked back instead of looking forward. 

I’ll let you now how the tulips fare.

 

 

The Deciding Day of February

All my life, I’ve been waiting to burst through the door during the darkest winter night to the smell of someone baking cookies FOR ME. As the fall gathers the darkness into folds and Christmas approaches, part of me feels so hopeful and happy. I picture myself smelling the sweet air, dropping wet mittens behind me, peeling off boots and coats, and scarves, and hats, with no one instructing me on where to leave these snow-crusted garments. Just a joyful presence, who has never had a face, holding up a cookie pan saying, “These are for you!”

It’s a lovely dream, and as those days retreat into the backdated calendar, here comes slim and tidy February. Not too long, not too short, saying:

“Night,
GO TO THE CORNER,
Twilight can stay
A few moments longer.”

The deciding day of February comes when I leave my office with the light in the western sky reaching up over its head into the endless darkness, telling me spring is coming. I know in an alternate Universe, whoever got stuck being me, is probably polishing off the last cookie.

 

 

Hope and Light

(For Janet and Karen)

In the darkest days of my youth,
I had moments that were devoid of hope;
each day, I carried cement bags of sorrow.

I began clawing lightness from other sources.
Literal sources—a light bulb, a candle,
the last embers of day slipping beneath the horizon.

Day after day, I pleaded, promising everything
until finally hope drifted in to my life,
like an entitled breeze, demanding daylight enter.

I didn’t care how awkward the entry.
I wasn’t expecting a soft caress—instead
I knew with all my heart:

Hope is the first crocus of spring,
the bulb pushing through the frozen surface;
the sigh of an old dog settling into sweet sleep.

It’s the realization that all is never lost.
Hope became my most cherished companion,
my reason for going on.

Fallen Oak

 

Winter trees

How sad that ice brought to its knees
The tallest, proudest of oak trees
Just when Spring’s second had left a card
Amid the fog of Winter’s yard.

No call of crow, nor flight of smoke
Can now unbend the fallen oak,
Nor lift new leaves up to the skies
To greet the Spring as Winter dies.