Of poetry, sunspots and tiny seeds and how plants grow miracles before our eyes

The Call of the Wild was one of my favourite books when I was a girl. I found it one spring when I was 11, abandoned in the melting snow of a ditch in Carruthers, Sask. where I went to school in a two-room schoolhouse for one year. The book was wet, the covers were torn off and the last page was gone, but I gobbled up the printed words on the dampened pages, enthralled by the images they produced. This book might have been what ignited my long-time passion for the North. . .  well, that and my Dad’s melodic voice reciting the lurid tales of Robert Service in his poems about Dangerous Dan McGrew and Sam McGee. The language of Service was so ordinary, yet true and evocative.

People don’t recite poems anymore, more’s the pity. It is a such a soothing way to leave the day and slip in a world of daylight dreaming.  But the garden does this to my mind, too. It takes away the fevers and the frettings of people-populated places filled with elbows and tongues that poke and probe and eat away at your peace. There is such egality in the garden. The plants know what is good for them and which other plants are their friends. Did you know that, in a given space, say a container filled with exotic specimens, plant roots will seek out the roots of their allies, even ignoring nearby pockets of nutrition? That fascinates me.

But then I have also learned that plants create their own homes in the earth, altering it with their roots so that the soil is never the same, chemically and structurally, once the plant is gone. Generally, this is a good thing. Plants store carbon dioxide in the earth by feeding the microorganisms that co-exist with the roots in a symbiotic relationship that benefits both. But all we see is the world above the ground where what goes on underground causes miracles to happen every second, each individual plant bursting with energy and life, creating artistic patterns of every imaginable kind.

If you look closely in the garden, you will see little hints of what is and what can be. You could spend your whole life doing this and still be filled with wonder at the continuing mystery.

This morning, I went out to work on my pool, it being a reasonable day and not yet raining, I am pulling out last year’s leaves, a backbreaking chore that takes me days, as I can only do a little a time. Floating on the surface were what looked like millions of little insects or ants, but which, upon closer observation, appeared to be tiny seeds, blown in by yesterday’s winds.

I wandered around the pre-rain yard as it got chillier and chillier, taking a close look at the shrubs which are budding. The forsythia has opened yesterday’s tightly closed blossoms, and more are emerging like little drops of sunshine along its eager stems. I see signs of swelling on the lilac, but the sumac is already extending tiny leaves and the Black Lace elderberry is bursting with impatience to come out fully. The Manitoba maple is all dressed in her finest, with flowers in her hair, but the Amur maple in the front yard is still dormant. I see a flush of green on the dwarf barberry, though.

It is a slow spring, nevertheless. It feels like COVID is in league with the weather to confound and confuse us. After all, the snow left in mid-March (a very rare event here in Manitoba), and since then we have been teased with odd days of unseasonably warm weather, very isolated to a day here and there, then followed by more cold and misery. The sun seems to be missing.

I have a friend who predicts the weather for agricultural purposes around the world. He says that the low number of sunspots is having an impact on everything around us right now and that the last time activity was almost this low was in 2009. Guess what happened in 2009? H1-N1 hit us and so did the recession – both probably coincidence. Still, you can’t help but wonder and the only thing we know for sure is that weather prediction is a mighty chancy profession. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has an 80% record of accuracy over the long term. And guess what? The 7-day forecast by meteorologists is also correct 80% of the time!

Tomorrow will be another day and perhaps I will get done then what eludes me today. In the meantime, I will dream of flowers as bright as the imported tulips in my living room, painting my garden with colour and filling my heart with joy.