I had two blissful days in the garden this past weekend even though it was not even March 15 in Manitoba.
This is an experience I have not had since I was five years old, when spring came very early, arriving well before its time. But these are some of the wonderful things about living here in a world where the weather commands our lives. We live for these blessed years, years when perhaps it rains on New Year’s Eve – yes, I have lived through those, and when like this year, Spring marches in well ahead of its appointed time.
Will winter come back? The swollen buds on my Manitoba maple and the neighbourhood poplars say No. But more, there is a feeling in the air that says, get ready, it is time.
Saturday, I cleaned the patio. Three hours of the beautiful, clean, fresh air lifted my spirits to the point where I did not feel my aches and pains. Sunday, I cut back winter-parched stalks, leaving the leaves to dissolve into the garden earth while I removed the pokey stems that take forever to break down. I stripped the leaves off the stalks, causing them to fall into the earth before I took away the woody parts. Within a day or two, I know all that leafy stuff will disappear and become part of next year’s nourishment.
Last year, in the front garden, still frozen under a layer snow, I put down woodchips as mulch. I am wondering if I should add a layer of topsoil to this and then more mulch on top of that? It can only help, I think, to encourage more organics and activity in the borders which have been neglected over the past five years as I have recovered from the loss of Glenn.
I think of the Victorian novelists who took only a year for grieving. What were they thinking? It is easier now. I have freed the columnar apple tree that he encased in a wire cage to keep the deer away. It has been almost eight years since we planted it. Perhaps, released to grow and thrive, it will reward with blossoms and apples this year.
In the garden, things change but remain the same. The little fir tree in the back yard, only three feet tall when we arrived, now towers above the cedars it is squeezed between. The globe cedar at the end of the pool, an ornament back then, is now a shade tree. The lovely girl next door whose lilting voice I used to hear practising the scales and who posed so willingly for the covers of some of my magazines, married the former mayor of our town after a career in California and is now a beautiful matron with three smart and lovely children. Her brother diligently mows my lawn, the sweet guy, because he likes flowers. Such are the rewards of the garden. She was visiting her mother today and we spoke over the fence as she held her darling youngest in her arms as she and the other two children and her loyal brother retuned from a walk in our magical woods by the river.
Oh, it is so good to return outdoors, to be able to luxuriate in the free air and to see the sky and to feel the earth ease out of its long sleep. It takes away all the stings and pokes and cuts of daily living in the time of COVID.
In Winnipeg, we have a wholesale company called Gales. It has been around since 1970 to serve the retail industry, but it carries a lot of very cool novelty things. One of these was a little ornamental birdhouse that I have hung outside my office window, eagerly awaiting some tenants this spring. Wrens, I think, will be attracted, although the amur maple that supports the birdhouse is a roosting place for blue jays that are courting right now.
Spring is breaking out all over –the fat buds on the maple are a promise that winter will not come back. You can smell spring carried in the brisk little breezes that stir the bare branches of the trees. The quality of lights has changed, too, and there is much warmth from the afternoon sun shining on the glass of the back door.
To support our feelings of optimism, vaccinations are being rolled out more rapidly every day. My friends across the border in North Dakota are no longer age restricted and, here in Manitoba, age eligibility is slowly coming down as more product becomes available through the Federal procurement system.
The summer of 2021 looks to be a time of celebration!