Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Welcoming Crocus

I was sure I'd missed the crocuses. And no wonder, as distracted as I've been lately. I feel like my life is in the car or in front of the computer and I hardly notice what's going on in my yard or the fields or the woods or the sky. Or the branches of trees.

But finally I stole a sunny afternoon last week to kneel in the dirt and pull the newly sprouting grass and last year's dried flower stems from the long strip behind the clothesline. We had last year tilled it up and broadcast alleged "American Wildflower" and "English Cottage Garden" seeds for a ribbon of color. The butterflies and bees were a bonus. Never mind that the seed content was mostly identical from both packets, we still had the summer full of cut flowers and a focus for daily walks–always refreshing to begin or end a walk with a long turn around the garden, or to cut a few stems after hanging the sheets. Still, it was a lot of weeding to encourage the flowers and I wanted to get a jumpstart now. A few perennials were included in the mix, and I had saved seeds from the annuals to sprinkle in the beds this year. My plan was to dig out the grass and "weeds"–plenty of room on the rest of this farm for burdock, plantain, dandelions and sorrel–and toss more seeds in the open spaces, hoping the uprooting was enough cultivation to encourage the flower seedlings.

As I worked my way down the row I met the sprouting green from the bulbs I set out last fall. I didn't plant them in any order, just bought a packet if it caught my fancy at the hardware store, or if it was on sale at the grocery, and then tried to sprinkle them evenly down the way. (I also planted a couple of bulbs' worth of garlic once when I was in the mood.) As I weeded I would come upon a new sprout of green and remember "Oh yeah, I planted daffodils too–unless these are narcissus." And then I came upon a spray of past-their-bloom crocuses.

There weren't nearly as many as I remembered planting, and as I said, I've been so distracted lately that I had to turn this over in my mind for a moment. Sometimes when I get out of touch I have a hard time remembering exactly where in the spiraling of seasons we are. And suddenly I remembered seeing crocuses pushing bravely through the late February snow. And here it was March. What else had I missed? The running of the sap. Yeah, we bought–how many years ago?–several pegs to hammer into the maple trees to try to collect sap for syrup. Had never remembered to use them yet, and now another missed opportunity. I looked up at the maple tree at the end of the garden. The boys' old rope ladder swung in the breeze. The tips of branches were exploding with the velvety red flowers. I sat for a moment and thanked whatever had knocked me out of my stupor of class prep, commuting, and housework so I could look around me and notice what goes on in the world. Notice what doesn't care if I am up til 2 a.m. making lesson plans, frantically trying to make my 8 o'clock on time, stressing on the juggling of my own shyness and the reticence of my students, struggling to stay one jump ahead of the syllabus. I sat for a moment and felt the wind on my face and just breathed in the scarlet of those maple flowers.

And you know?–maybe I didn't miss those crocuses after all. Over the next few days I found more crocuses just blooming in the grass where I'd planted them in the front yard. Maybe the rest of the bulbs–the daffodils and lilies–are just earlier than I remembered. And this morning we awoke to snow driving down in a straight line from the north. I'll be willing to bet that when the snow stops we'll find the crocus blossoms bravely pushing up through the crystals.

Grow in Beauty; Bloom in Peace; Blessed Be.

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