Spring and a Prayer

This time last year I had herbs in the ground, Gerber daisies riding shotgun along the edge of my porch, geraniums in gigantic and hopeful pots siting by the door, promising to be gigantic themselves. Spring arrived sometime in early March and that was fine with me. 

I gave up on one more snow storm and gave over to garden catalogs, plastic pots of English thyme and I dug in the dirt to my heart’s content. I circled tools and garden clogs in catalogs, drove out in the countryside for bags of my favorite potting soil. 

This year I watch the Weather Channel and wonder when I can plant the delicate herbs and poppies I purchased just before Easter. They are still on the porch and they complain like a toddler whose shoes are too tight.  Their roots are binding a little more each day and they droop and pout.  

The geraniums are still in the nursery, nestled with their siblings.  The season is so wonky they hadn’t made an appearance when I visited the weekend before Easter. I will go get them today if it warms up and I venture out. 

It is an odd spring, weather-wise, world-wise.  The time of all hope and promise, whether looking at the Christian calendar or the greening of the fields, yet a sadness creeps just at the edges, an unease, and I find myself blinking in the light on some days, wishing, in an ashamed way, for a little more rain, more clouds, so I can stay inside and crawl under a blanket, watch mindless TV, or do nothing at all.  

It isn’t like me, really. 

I spent the week before Easter cleaning and cooking and bringing up serving pieces from the basement.  I watched the news hardly at all.  My tribe ascended, lovely and loud, with babies crawling around, and I spun like a dervish between kitchen and dining room, replenishing plates and glasses all Easter Day long.  

I didn’t have a single cogent conversation with anyone, but I heard the sisters-in-law remarking how difficult it is to be happy or joyful this Easter with Ukraine…

The speaker trailed off, not knowing how to finish the sentence.  How to see the images, how to think about the invasion and have adequate words. 

There are none. 

As a child who spent her bedtimes waiting for the Russians to come snatch her from her bed,  who hid under a desk with her tiny classmates, whose father worked on digging a bomb shelter after dinner each night, I can’t seem to grasp now the threat that Putin might use nuclear weapons.  

The immediate concern is Ukraine of course, and maybe Central Europe.  My friends in the Czech Republic are certainly on edge. But here? I can’t think so, but then, there is an unreality to what is going on over there, even as we see with our own eyes, even as dots are connected for us by retired generals, diplomats, experts. 

I am in incessant prayer, although I am not certain it is prayer, because prayer has always felt like this wispy and vague endeavor, lacking a firm beginning with a rush to the amen. Now, I have dispensed with even the amen, adding three dots of my own…which I mean to be a stand in for “more to follow.”
This circular prayer suits me these days as I watch the news and even for the poppies still on my porch, as they grow more pale and wan each day.

I dig in the dirt and plant my basil, because the earth is there to receive and the basil of full of potential, desirous of only a soft place to land.  The sun in this part of my yard obliges, every day, all day.  

I fear I sound morose or depressed, and I am not.  But I am more sober and thoughtful, I will give you that.  I wear the uncertainty of things a little differently now, a coat I feel the weight of, but not so buttoned up I cannot breathe. I stand with the world that suffers great pain. In my own small way I bear witness.  I tend the little piece of ground I’ve been given, and I am grateful for it. 

And the sun and the rain, the just and unjust, lessons I try to understand.  The childhood civil defense drills and sunflowers waiting to grow in a torn land beyond our reach, but familiar now, nonetheless.

Easter Then, Easter Now

It could be fall if I go only by that which I can hear.  The rain outside, nothing dramatic or torrential, but steady, comforting in its way, as the evening grows darker. The house feels humid, though, not on the verge of cold, as it does in autumn, but still on some dark mornings I wake and I am not quite sure what season it is, especially when it rains. 

The birds give it away on those mornings I wake early. I find them irksome in principle because they hinder my falling back to sleep.  It simply  isn’t done to admit this about the early spring birds, so I ask you keep my confidence on this. 

Last week some of us woke to hail, then it cleared into a bright sunny day, only to cloud up and hail some more, or was it sleet, or was it ice, in the afternoon.  My sister and I had a bit of  a tiff over it as we stood in in her kitchen and watched her puppies run around in it, oblivious to whatever it was. 

I would say we are having a bad spring, but of course, we are not. No tornado warnings to speak of, warm nights followed by cool days followed by freeze warnings followed by cold days followed by sunshine and balmy breezes.  

A typical spring, then.  

In recent years we have been bestowed with springs that seem to begin in February and last until the first of July.  Last year I bought herbs, geraniums, and Shasta daisies in mid-March and didn’t need to drape them with tea towels once during the long, long spring. 

Even though Easter is late this year, we still aren’t sure what to expect, weather-wise.  While we have two little ones in attendance at the family gathering, they are still too young to gather eggs, and we will be happy to avoid that all together.  When I was little it seemed to rain or snow on Easter.  The Easter Bunny hid eggs in the house on those early mornings, and we were fishing dyed eggs out of the couch for weeks.  

I reckon my parents were happy to hide the eggs indoors, but it was just a let-down, you know?  The house still dark from the early hour and the rain, eggs visible from the landing, and no real challenge to any of it.  Easter basket grass is lovely and fairy-like when backlit by an early Easter sun.  It is just kind of messy and matted sitting in a leaning basket on the hearth. 

Easter Sunday was church, and new shoes and something frilly which, in the early 60s meant scratchy and uncomfortable.  There were new gloves, white and cotton or sometimes crocheted.  A dime for the plate inside the glove, worrying my palm with its cool metal antics, moving and sliding as I moved and slung my arm.

Maybe we all came to Sunday school clutching our Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, or maybe we brought it the Sunday before.  In the Southern Baptist church where I grew up, women couldn’t participate much, except in the most womanly and motherly roles.  But the only historical figures of the church every child could name were these:  Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon. 

For some Easter is their favorite holiday. It is certainly the most high holiday of the Christian calendar. I liked the Easter hymns, although they made me shiver a little.  They were joyous and dark all at the same time, and the Easter stories were dramatic and upsetting, and sometimes we had preachers who went too far, pounding for effect on the pulpit as they acted out the nailing to the cross. The stories of all night vigils, betrayal, beatings, and the very word Golgotha terrified me.  That Easter weekend often ended with a TV airing of the “Wizard of Oz” just topped it off. 

But this Sunday we will gather from our various Easter services, watch the boys roll around on the floor, someone will almost step on them, someone else with drop cake on their heads, there will be ham and deviled eggs and mercifully no Easter grass.  

I will fall asleep remembering my Bible lessons, and flying monkeys, and the feel of white cotton gloves, as spotless as they will ever be.