Sterling was helping me with yard work on Monday. She is my favorite helper, having been taught all the specifics and important gardening tips from her grandmother, Ruth. She has ten years of experience already and isn’t even out of ninth grade.
So I defer to her expertise and asked about the best time to plant something or other, and did she think it was too early.
“Give it another couple of weeks,” she said. “The weather has been so crazy this spring.”
I was thinking it had returned to normal. Remember when there were tornado watches and warnings almost every week in spring? Spitting sleet in early April, only to sunburn a few days later when the weekend warmed. The trips to nurseries because you just couldn’t stand it, all that green, all that color waving and making you want, want like you never had before.
And giving in to the craving, you drive all your little darlings home, line them on the porch and admire their brilliance. You have sense enough not to plant them in actual dirt, actually outside. A cold snap, one of the notorious little “winters,” and you drag them indoors. There they adorn the hearth and get so cosy and snug they think their work is over and after all fear of frost has passed, you send them outside, but they refuse to bloom until June.
This is how it is. This is how a Kentucky spring is supposed to be.
This is what Sterling doesn’t know.
Even so, her instincts are spot on. Not that long ago I had this very discussion with my pal, Sally. She said, in her clear and unassailable way, not to plant anything until Mother’s Day.
Mother’s Day. I mean, really. But then, weather changes. What is warm and balmy, like the breeze this morning as I write on the patio, will give way to clouds and storms by noon. Even now, I feel the temperature drop.
I have missed the drama of spring. Even as I cleaned garden plots in February for an early March planting, I had pangs of sadness, or if not sadness, then wistfulness for the reminder of life’s elements larger than I. The mystery of it. The test it puts me through.
Easter Week in the Christian tradition begins with the triumphant arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem to cheering crowds and palms at his feet. It ends with Golgotha and finally, the empty tomb.
Growing up we didn’t observe Lent, with the fasting a reminder of forty days in the wilderness, didn’t keep an Easter Vigil, didn’t have ashes or palm leaves.
We had hymns. Each week as Easter approached, the music and the message moved us closer to Good Friday, Easter Sunday. And the weather helped, in its subtle way. Sun on our faces, warm earth beneath our feet. Then something turns. Storm, hail, darkness at noon.
And yet. And yet.
Things bloom. They die. They bloom again.