Lessons from My Garden

 

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I ache all over.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time lately, and the better part of the last two two days, outside trying to bring some sense of order to our yard and gardens.

The temperature has been in the 60s (call it 18 celsius) and it’s been sunny, so it’s been a delight to be outdoors. But it’s hard work, is yard work. And since my husband had yet another ankle surgery last month, a lot of it is falling to me.

I learn, or re-learn, many lessons in these days of April.

  • This isn’t yet a lovely time of year. It has its moments and, all in all, it’s better than February, but April is pretty chilly, quite windy, and way too wet.
  • Living on a lake has its downside. Ever since we had to leave our home for 6 weeks several years ago, when Lake Champlain flooded and we could only get in the house by wearing chest waders, we have had a healthy, nervous respect for the lake in April. It’s high right now, into flood stage, but not yet really a problem . . . knock wood.
  • I now know where I planted my mother’s irises. We sold her place late last fall and I had to rush to dig up the irises and bring them here. And I had no idea where I put them! Now I know and I’m thrilled to see them. It’s good to have something new, and old, to look forward to.
  • All the leaves from upstate New York, most from Vermont, and quite a few from Canada blow in every late fall and form dense, thick mats on our lawn. The tops look dry but underneath they’re soaked and in spots still frozen. The Canadian encroachers bother me most and I think maybe we should build a wall.
  • The gym didn’t do me much good at all. I dutifully went, all winter long, and sweated on the treadmill and that elliptical thingy, and am still knackered after two hours raking.
  • The corollary to which is: the best overall way to stay fit is to do yard work.
  • I did a wretchedly bad job, just really lazy, of cleaning up the gardens last autumn, which is proof of another pivotal lesson of life: You can pay now or you can pay later.
  • I’ve been reminded that little things offer huge rewards after winter—that one golden crocus, the old cats that act like kittens again and zoom up trees, the bits of chartreuse that are thriving under the frozen mat of dead leaves—it’s that color that happens only in early spring and is so fleeting and perfect.
  • And I’ve learned, again, the pleasure of the bone-deep tiredness that comes from working outside, to care for our bit of Earth.

What lessons does your garden have to teach?

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The Ugly Duckling Season

IMG_1403You know how every young person goes through an awkward stage? Not an adorable child any longer but not quite grown into the beauty she or he will become? You remember the heart-stopping beauty that was and you believe in the miracle that will bring the loveliness to come and yet every time you look, and you see the teeth that are too big for the face and the acne, you have to wonder a little?

That’s what our weather is like right now. The rest of the northern hemisphere seems to have sprung into springdom in all its glory, but here, in the North Country of upstate New York, we’re at the awkward stage.

The snow is melting into huge ponds on front yards but then freezes into perfect ice rinks over night.

IMG_1389Dead leaves and flower stalks from last year are stuck in the ice and hint of life but it’s only the merest whisper of a hint.

IMG_1396 IMG_1383The sand left by road crews all winter is drifting and, on windy days, taking a walk feels like going through a sandblaster.

IMG_1373We have spots where bare ground is showing but also have lots of filthy snow and a lake that refuses to melt.

IMG_1387 IMG_1374Where there’s ice at night, there will be mud all day.

IMG_1395 IMG_1394But no one is really complaining. Transitions are awkward and sometimes unlovely, whether in children or seasons, but they are also exciting and full of promise.

And one morning, we’ll wake up and without noticing exactly when it happened, the ugly duckling will have become a swan.

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