I’m seeing and hearing the signs of spring. There are more birds chirping in the trees and on rooftops than there have been for many weeks. Weeds are popping up in my garden to herald the coming season when my amaryllis bulbs will burst forth in glory. My azalea bushes that suffered greatly during the brief freezes of winter along the Gulf Coast have already begun to bloom, even as their branches have not yet filled out with leaves. Days are longer and the world seems ready to rise again from its winter slumbers.
I enjoy spring where I live as much as I enjoy the fall. While northern climes are still encased in snow and ice I put away my coats in favor of lightweight sweaters. My years old fur lined boots return to the back of the closet where they will rest until a rare freeze comes our way many months from now. It’s time to prepare for the burst of nature’s glory that brings flowers in March, not May. It’s a grand time to be outside now because the summer will be hot and humid and sometimes unbearable.
Spring is a metaphor for things both poetic and spiritual. In my old occupation as a teacher it meant rushing to complete the the required curriculum before the testing season measured my success and that of my students. It was such a flurry of activity that the time from the end of February to the end of May seemed to pass like the blink of an eye. I only had time to tend my garden on the weekends when I would work in tandem with my neighbors who were also pampering their plants and their grass.
When I retired I had more time to devote to the tasks that bring me so much joy. I was able to spend an entire day feeling, seeing, hearing the glorious symphony of the earth coming back to life. It was a soul soothing project that reconstituted my optimism each year. It reminded my of my roots, my ancestors who labored on the land, my grandmother who was a wizard of botanical magic. Somehow the mere act of putting my hands into the dirt let loose enough serotonin inside my brain to keep my spirits high for months to come.
This year’s prelude to spring feels different from any I have had before. I have not yet been able to balance all of my responsibilities well enough to carve out a time to spend communing with the tiny bit of nature in my yard. I have to work around the needs of my father-in-law who is now a member of our household. He is a man of routine who also thinks of things that must be accomplished at the last minute. I can no longer rush outside early in the morning to engage in my gardening, nor can I work past five in the evening the way I have always done. I have to stop and start rather than becoming totally engrossed in my work. The effect is somehow not as pleasant as it has always been.
I suppose that I too am a creature of habit but as I grow old I realize more and more that nothing lasts forever, not even treasured routines. Change is as inevitable as the seasons or an unexpected mid March frost. Like the plants that I attempt to revive I too must be wiling to undergo the cycles of life like those that affect the living things around me. I suppose that is I why I love nature so much. It fights to stay alive and often surprises us just when we think that it has lost the battle.
One year I neglected to cover one of my most cherished hibiscus plants during a freeze. It looked totally dead and even many weeks into spring showed no signs of life. Somehow I was not willing to give up on the little bush so I dug it up from the ground and replanted it in a pot that I moved to an isolated spot in the yard. I checked on it periodically all throughout the summer until around August a tiny green sprout seemed to pop out from the trunk. Slowly a couple of leaves formed but not much else. When winter came I stored the sickly plant in the garage where it stayed safe during the coldest months. That spring new growth came quickly, but no blooms. I literally wondered if I had only saved a weed when almost two years later a beautiful flower burst forth.
Living a good life requires patience and time. We will face challenges that seem capable of killing our spirit. With persistence and care we sometimes find that growing is disruptive and difficult. We may not see our progress for a very long time and then suddenly we will realize that we have indeed adapted and flourished. We leave the doldrums and feel a profound sense of accomplishment.
I love spring. I’ve already had a head start on the season. I’m pruning and fertilizing and mulching and purchasing native plants to accent my roses. I’m also adjusting and adapting to all the newness that is perhaps the most exciting aspect of life.