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.