The groundhog’s prediction has been made. The weather personalities have had their say. The Farmer’s Almanac has consulted its sources. Just like every other year, spring will be here when our daylight equals our nighttime. We know that it is near. The aisles in stores are starting to fill with lawn and garden items. New seed catalogs are arriving daily. The bird songs are filling the morning air. It is almost light out by the time I get to work.
The telltale signs of spring for me are perhaps more subtle. One warm afternoon on my walk home from work, I noticed the smell of leaf humus, a subtle earthiness in the air. Perhaps my boot had agitated a moss patch between the cracks in the sidewalk. In an instant, my nose was filled with the aromas of freshly turned earth—last year’s compost heap is teeming with earthworms and little roly polys, and of the rye grass as it captures the sun. As I walk down the hill toward home, I realize that everything is waking from its winter dormancy. The forsythia is budding. The azalea and rhododendron are losing the winter pucker and relaxing in a bath of sunshine.It brings me to wonder if the garlic, which we planted much too late, had enough time before the freeze to work its magic under the straw and snow. Even more, I wonder if the lettuce, spinach and carrots that were planted, again much too late last year, in the low tunnel, in a half-hearted attempt to have fresh produce over winter, have awoken to the longer days of sunshine.
How I long to smell the earth on my hands. The aroma breaks the spell of the sedentary winter. It intoxicates us with hope for the upcoming seasons. This will be the year we plant that later crop of broccoli and beans. We will do spinach and lettuce early and late. Our pumpkins, melons, and cucumbers will be tended and manicured to perfection. We will get carrots to grow in our formerly blue clay garden.
As one of our family rituals, we have taken to the practice of planting peas and few sunflowers on St. Patrick’s Day. It is our chance to get dirty and start to build the anticipation of this year’s garden. Best of all, the peas do not seem to mind the still chilly and damp soil. As we tend to our chores, we talk about the upcoming garden, we reminisce about last year’s harvest and wonder if the Swallowtails will remember to lay some eggs again this year.
As we finish our first planting of the year, the conversation turns to the garden layout for this year and when to start the tomatoes and sunflowers inside. Then a thought about the garlic; I have forgotten to check the garlic. Sure enough, the mini majesties of spring have erupted from the snow laden earth. Proud stems or stalks or modified leaves (I should remember this from Bio 2), push past the straw blanket and melting snow to herald the growing spring.
It is all about hope. That is why we plant. We plant tiny seeds, metaphoric or not, of hope and dream. Hoping that our harvest, by some means of our toil, will fortify the world around us.