It’s mid-March, and today the temp may reach 78 degrees. The azaleas are loaded with buds, and the daffodils are up—so, the cycle begins. Spring starts early here; the average daily high in March is around 65 degrees. The sun has moved from the very back of the house and now is making its way to the most southern studio window.
Life is lived in the sun, and being attuned to it and dependent on it, we adjust to its patterns. A few years ago, for no particular reason, long before I had any ideas of having a garden, I started tracking tree cycles. I marked on a calendar when the buds appeared, when the first leaves appeared on the pecan tree (the last in the yard to get leaves) and when the final leaf had fallen in autumn. I noted the time of year the sun came in various windows, especially the east-facing ones with plants.
There is something about how the earth wakes up and busies itself that, in observing it, helps me appreciate my part in the cycle. Since I began gardening, that feeling of being part of it all has grown more acute. There is pruning to be done, dead foliage to remove, and fertilizer to spread. I have to think of what plants I will experiment with each season and whether anything should be moved. All the while, the days lengthen and warm.
All the things I’ve mentioned are mundane, everyday things that easily go unnoticed. But have you ever thought about how extraordinary it is for a maple sapling to emerge from a jumble of leaves with no assistance?
Recently, my brother, visiting the handful of remaining relatives, sent a picture of my hometown in rural Virginia—an old coal-mining town that saw its heyday in the 1920s. The town is almost empty. My old house is gone, replaced by twenty-foot tall pines and maples. The streets where I played tag now dead-end at forests. One day, I imagine the town will be covered over like a Mayan ruin in the Yucatan.
The bluebird family that lives in the mulberry tree in the backyard is making provisions for new additions. They have been here for about five years, adding to the robins, blue jays, cardinals, mockingbirds, and doves that were here before. I’ve heard the owl recently but haven’t seen the hawks. As usual, the squirrels have dug hundreds of holes, which I now accept and just sprinkle over with grass seed—it works out for all involved.
Gardening ties one to a story, a story of life replicating and changing, unaided. Planting gives one a stake, a role to play in that story. It also forces one to accept that he/she is only an extra, a bit player, who may make a place or spot, here or there, a little nicer. However, the story will go on—with or without any extras. Realizing that I’m not needed is comforting. Life goes on; the earth turns, the sun warms.
Enough daydreaming—back to making my list.
There will be angelonia for sure. Verbena had proven itself as well. The woodland phlox on the deck has survived squirrel curiosity and has been blessed with plenty of rain. It will go around the sweet gum stump. Some of the ferns that have overrun the front, I’ll give a chance to battle the squirrels and chipmunks out back.
The sun, wished for and wondered at, is returning. The earth is busy. It’s time for me to join in—as if anyone could talk me out of it.