Easter is just past though one of my favorite lilting, happy songs says: “Every morning is Easter morning from now on….”. It was a most unusual Easter morning which I will, perhaps speak of in a later essay. It included the death of a long-time friend and member of our congregation and I am still processing that.
To celebrate Earth Day, I’m thinking of planting peas in a pot. It is a bit too early for our clay soil to be warm and welcoming; seeds planted in the ground would likely rot instead of sprouting. I keep reminding myself, we aren’t in central Pennsylvania anymore, Dorothy! 😊 Our garden there was just wonderful — good soil and Zone 6. But while I miss those advantages in gardening, and still miss our friends there, I’m glad to be in the Finger Lakes.
The crocuses are over and the daffodils are in bloom —- reluctantly, I’m sure. That snow fall on Monday night discouraged plants as well as people. The cats took it as a personal insult! Fortunately, we only got about 3 inches. Every spring of the year, the gardens seem as though they might be turning out as well as their plans on paper. Of course, that ideal hasn’t happened in my last 50 years of gardening — but I always hope for the best. Gardens are in my DNA. Our plots and beds come nowhere near the ones that my mother designed and created, but it is written in stone — and soil —- that I must try to continue the spread of beauty wherever we may be. I was fortunate to have an article published (some years ago) with my mother’s garden story (Flower and Garden Magazine) and re-reading it always gives me a little push to go on in spite of dry spells or drenching rains that necessitate re-planting. Gardens are so unique to the people who plan and plant them and they are all beautiful —- even when “Weedus Victorious” is the case.
Not just gardeners, but people in general, have life stories that would fascinate and amaze us if we only took the time to listen. Anita Krizzan* says: “We are mosaics —pieces of light, love, history, stars—glued together with magic and music and words.” Sometimes, at first glance, there are people who seem to be made up of less attractive elements, who then create many of the world’s problems. But first glances/judgments are seldom the whole story. Quite a few years ago, while participating in a conference, small groups began getting acquainted by having a time of each one telling his/her story. At most events, people tend to introduce themselves by what they do — “I’m a banker” or “I teach high school”. But one’s story is a different thing than how one earns daily bread. Your story includes from whence you come, how you got where you are and what is important to you. We would do well to consider these things about the people around us. I try to remember when someone does something that annoys or appalls me, that I don’t know their whole story. Knowing a person’s back-story is an immense help as we try to be non-judgmental, forgiving and caring. Mr. Rogers said something similar: “As a human being, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has — or ever will have.”**
I recently made reservations for the VCS Alumni banquet in June. I haven’t attended one of these since I graduated from high school — some years ago. I have been to class reunions but never the all-school event. It has always been good to get re-acquainted with former classmates — discovering what they are doing to make a difference in their world and how they are having fun. I expect to have the same good time at this event. I hope it is well-attended by people from my era.
High school was a mixed bag for me. There are people who loved high school and others who hated it. I didn’t feel strongly either way; it was just expected and there I was. There were good days and unhappy ones, mostly due to the teenage malady of yoyo emotions. I was never the ilk of cheerleader, home-coming queen or valedictorian. But I had good friends, participated in some fine musical activities, played intramural basketball and had great fun decorating for proms and being in the Senior play. Scholastics were taught sufficiently well that I did Ok in college when I got there. I respected and liked most of my teachers. So, I’d say school did what it was supposed to do. I probably could have excelled had I concentrated a bit more on studies but, I think I lacked a strong feeling of competition; I just wanted to satisfy myself, and to please favorite teachers, not compete to surpass others (well — except maybe for that guy who took first chair flute at All-State!!).
It has been a long and scenic road from high school to all these ages later, and, as someone remarked, “the days are long but the years are short!” If there would be one understanding I wish that I’d had back then, it would be to take life slowly; to not take my hourly ups and downs so seriously. A bad day (often a matter of perspective) really wasn’t the end of all things; someone laughing at me wasn’t necessarily about me but possibly their own insecurities. By graduation, life opens up and what seemed so crucial in high school really doesn’t matter much anymore; there are so many wonderful things waiting outside the brick walls of classrooms.
It didn’t occur to me when I was living much of life to think about how the small bits and pieces would assemble into that collage of the years —- all those tiny pieces of light, love, history and stars. But in spite of some sad times, some frightening times and some dull times — I do believe that the magic Anita Krizzan spoke of has touched my personal collage, making it glow with the good memories. They are like the golden thread running through a tapestry. And I expect that this is true for most people.
I try to be more aware, daily. Right now, before foliage emerges, the bare bones of the garden structure stand out. I check to see what needs building up or tearing down. I love the old stone walls of New England, so we built one. Kerm piled the stones into a 2 & 1/2-foot wall behind a flower garden, thinking it would be a good background for my roses. It turns out that the spot isn’t great for roses, but is perfect for chipmunks. All its rocky nooks and crannies provide a safe space for the cheeky little rodents. It is when they go far afield that they come to grief from the cats. The wall also provides a a fine background for an azalea, a pink flowering almond and ivory plumes of astilbe.
Currently, we are completing the pergola that was begun last summer and put on hold when we had some personal structure problems. Kerm’s knees and my head wound combined to stymie most of last summer’s gardening efforts. Kerm has hurried to get the stone floor down before knee surgery later this spring. I can envision the pergola with a climbing yellow rose, a golden Carolina Jessamine and perhaps an airy, white Autumn Clematis softening its frame. We’ll hang a leaded glass window on a cross-piece, put the grill inside on the stone floor along with a couple of weather-proof chairs. It won’t take the place, in our hearts, of the huge white pine we had to take down, but it will be a usable and attractive substitute.
One startling issue this year was the rise in cost of ordering garden plants. It will be interesting to see if they are less expensive in the garden stores. Not only have the costs of perennials nearly doubled, but the postage for having them shipped is also excruciatingly high. Buying seeds is still cost-effective, so I’ll be trying to grow delphinium, lupines, etc. from seed. They won’t bloom until next year (assuming I’m successful at germinating them) but neither will they break the bank. And they will be hardier since they were born in this soil.
Spring is a lovely time —the peepers are singing loudly and the air is fragrant with awakening soil. We all rejoice on days that are sunny with blue skies and balmy breezes. But I am coming to appreciate those “April showers” although I prefer water and not snow. Water is a most precious resource that we all take for granted. Western states are already feeling the pinch of not enough, so when there’s rain (and even snow), I feel more secure about the water table. This poem by Langston Hughes*** seems just right for April.
“Let the rain kiss you. Letthe rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby. The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk. The rain makes shining pools in the gutter. The rain plays a little sleep song on your roof at night. And I love the rain.”
The fresh air of spring tells us there is something wonderful in the ordinary. Instead of going on our habitual way, oblivious to the world around, spring wakes us up to the wonders — the miracles we see only if we are mindful of our surroundings. Be aware of these days of new growth and new opportunities. In three weeks the lilacs should be in bloom!
Carol writes from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: email@example.com.
*Anita Krizzan — writer and poet from Slovenia
**Mr. Fred Rogers — Presbyterian pastor, story-teller, TV personality, and author. 1928-2003
***Langston Hughes –James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, novelist, playwright, social activist from Joplin, Missouri. 1902-1967