Tag Archives: spring

Isolating: Week Three

It was hard to move last week, although I managed.  I sat on the sofa watching the news all day, every day, and only broke up the routine to wander off to do laundry, taking my phone with me, so I could keep up with the news.

I stayed in touch with friends and family via social media, and often the chats were full of forwarded news reports announcing new numbers of infections, the lack of test kits, the heroic work of the medical profession, and maddening reports from the fringes, both left and right.  I was not soothed.

Then, I remembered my friend, Linda’s,  advice, that 1950s staple of lazy afternoons, the Sunday drive.  I planned my weekend around that, marking my calendar with intention.  As I thought about where to go, I began to see some flaws in the plan.  Gas is cheap, yes, and the open road is a perfect place to isolate, but what about pit stops? 

I adjusted my itinerary to include a countryside meandering that could be completed in about an hour, giving me plenty of time to get back to my Cloroxed and disinfected home for any of my personal needs.  Sunday turned out to be a gloomy day, so an hour was just about right.

I headed south, looking for the road to take me to Habit, Kentucky, and ending up at the crossroads where sits Bethabara Baptist Church.  Established in the 1880s, it is simple in design, with its tall arched windows and white painted brick exterior.  It might be at home in New England.  There is something about it, and I took photos from different angles, never quite capturing the thing that draws me there a couple of times a year. But still, the windows reflecting the still-bare trees were haunting and matched the mood of the day.

Flowing down a small hill in the back of the church was a purple carpet of deadnettle, the weed that arrive early to tell us spring is coming.  Because it is in the mint family, deadnettle is invasive and hard to get rid of, but it is lovely to look at blanketing the earth, and I took photos of it, too. 

It has dawned on me slowly that isolating doesn’t mean I can’t be outside, as long as staying in means staying in my own backyard.  On the first nice day I took to the flowerbed, pulling weeds and my own deadnettle. I raked leaves left over from fall, spent more time than was strictly necessary sitting in the dirt.

I need compost and seeds, more mulch, but they will have to wait until I receive the all clear to venture out.  I feel fine, and think I am healthy as a horse.  But I am also in a high risk group, being of a certain age and having asthma—mild asthma, and intermittent, but still.  After a week of congratulating myself for being so compliant, grocery shopping when the parking lot was almost empty, it occurred to me that even that might be risky behavior.

My friends in the medical field assure me that it is. 

It has taken a while for this to sink in. 

So I read “The Beautiful World Beside the Broken One,” Margaret Renkl’s recent essay in the New York Times.  She tells us the birds don’t care about us, or this virus.   They are too busy doing bird things.  They prepare their nests, they sing as they are meant to, and we can listen and take comfort.  Daffodils are on the way, and tulips, hyacinth.  Peonies are shooting up, red and ragged, to thrill us in a month or two.  My lilac is wanting to bud, but it is playing hard to get.  The grass is that particular spring green, as vibrant as it will ever be until it dies away in fall.

We struggle to make sense of it all, in our fear seeing only chaos and dread.  Yet we have power, too.  We have control over what we have always had within our power to control, ourselves.  We can work to be kind, considerate, helpful.  Be patient with the ways in which our family and friends are frightened. We can work to control our own fears, our anger, our outlook.  We can marvel, as Renkl would have us do, at the natural world, which has rules of its own.  A world of awakening and new growth and hope.  We only must get out of its way, and wonder.

In Like a Lamb

Please, March, in like a lamb.  Also, out like a lamb, if you don’t mind.  It’s just that I have much less tolerance for extremes in all things, and where I once enjoyed a good storm standing on the porch as if lashed to a spar, all dramatic with wild hair dripping spray, now I just want to nap.

It was a family trait, this standing in the open door as soon as the tornado sirens sounded.   My father started it, and then my siblings and I gathered close behind him, pushing for advantage to be the first one blown off to Oz.

I think it disgusted my mother, and she figured the sensible ones, if there were any, would return to the safety of, if not the basement, an interior room, and she never called for us, yelled at us, or pleaded.  She  wasn’t wasting her well-being or her breath on such a spectacular group of nincompoops.

I get my kicks on Netflix now, where I help my Scandinavian and British colleagues solve crime. I am in actual danger only rarely, like when I drop the remote and I have to crawl around to find it.  It hurts my knees and sometimes I get wedged between the wall and sofa, where I spend several upsetting minutes, contemplating my derisive attitude toward the Life Alert necklace, and feeling shame for how often I made fun  of “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

I hope for a March of calm, one where the patio furniture stays put and the rains are gentle and restorative. I enjoy the sun slanting in that particular way as it arcs toward its summer home and the nights are cold, but only blanket cold, not big socks, down comforter, wear a toboggan to bed cold.  I hope for March mornings, brisk and bright.

March is meant to be spent wandering the home stores and Rural King. There are packets of seeds to peruse, new garden gloves to try on, hoses to access.  Hoses are the bane of my existence.  I used to buy cheap ones, but they kinked so horribly I bit the bullet and purchased a heavy duty hose.  While I was at it, I thought I should get one a hundred feet long, and I could barely drag it around my yard.  It crushed my tender flowers and I had to sit down throughout the chore of watering, because it exhausted me.

Now I pick up those lightweight pocket hoses when I see them on sale.  I treat them as consumables, knowing eventually they will rupture and die, and then I go to the garage and get another one from the shelf where they sit, stacked up like surplus paper towels.

March is for cleaning windows, the better to watch the fledgling spring arrive.  It is for sprucing up around the yard, raking, buying bags of mulch, painting the wrought iron on the rare warm day.  March gives us our last chance for snow, which will be thrilling to await, but disappointing upon arrival.  It will be a heavy snow and short-lived, and in a huff we will wonder why it didn’t have the good grace to show up on Christmas Eve.

March gets props because it puts an end to February, and we love that about it.  March prepares us for Easter, for planting, for moving our lives outside. We get that extra hour of light in the evening and we get to put away our heaviest clothes.  March points us, decidedly, toward spring, with dogwood and redbud and the scent of slowing warming earth. And about time.

Mr. Davis Has Elephant Ears

With spring comes a freshness, a green that won’t appear again until this time next year.  It arrives on the edge of thunder and hail, and even as you are righting all the lawn chairs, flipping the lids back onto the toters, there is that certain whiff in the air.  It is the scent of renewal, hope, forgiveness, even.  It is the scent of spring.

And it smells like mulch. Image

Mulch is the Epcot Center of gardening.  You know what I mean.  At Epcot you can visit the Moroccan and China Pavilions and believe you have traveled to those exotic places. But it’s better.  Everything is just so clean.  And neat. And effortless.

And the best part, you won’t be plagued with those pesky intestinal bugs that the poor slobs who actually go to China and Morocco find so inconvenient and vulgar.

Mulch is like that.  It is nothing more than yard waste, shredded trees and twigs, some dirt and some composted something.  But bag it and stack it on pallets, or store it loose in a giant bin like prized free-range dirt, and it becomes something more than itself, something bigger, something better and we dream of it.  Covet it.  Think we deserve it, because look how hard we have worked, or think about how hard we would work, if only we had some lovely mulch to inspire us.

As strange as this weather has been, you would think we would be bracing for natural disaster, or organizing our bug-out bags, or getting our affairs in order.  But no.

We are not doing any of these things.

We are mowing our yards.Twice a week.

We are out buying plants. Mulch.

We are showing up at work on Monday with sunburned faces and arms, already, here, in mid-March.

Me, I’m buying elephant ears.

Mr. Davis lived next door to my grandmother for as l could remember.  He had a lush green lawn when no one had a lush green lawn.  At a time when yards were mostly clover and Bermuda grass, his was dark and tall and looked like it could hide Easter eggs right past Halloween.

Across the front of his house was a herd of elephant ears.  Gigantic elephant ears.  Ears that he had been nurturing and tending for years.

They are a tropical plant, which  make sense when you think about where elephants live.  The bulbs won’t survive our winters, so every fall Mr. Davis chopped off the foliage and dug up the bulbs.  They must have been immense because the holes they left were impressive.  He dried them, stored them in his basement and in the spring he planted them anew.

What fascinated and sort of disturbed me was the fact that he would plant them, dig them up, plant them, dig them up, year after year.  I had no reference for this kind of care and attention to gardening.   Landscaping at my house consisted of mowing the grass right up to the house, half-heartedly trimming around the sidewalks, and scattering grass seed a few times a year over the spots we rubbed bare with our bicycles and baseball games.

I had gone out to get zinnia seeds because anyone can grow them.   But right there, by my feet in a cardboard bin, were mesh bags of elephant ears.

I must tell you, I have never seen such a thing these. They were easily the size of cantaloupes and I simply had to have them.

I could see the cool dark corner of my yard where I would plant them, could see the small children dressed in  organza playing amongst them as they trip around my garden sanctuary on a dragonfly afternoon.  Could almost hear the crack of the croquet ball, the clinking of ice in the lemonade pitcher, could see the sloping lawn of my estate in the sun gently sets.

All this from a pack of zinnias and three oddly shaped cantaloupes.  That’s right, and so what? I have smelled the mulch.