the house had just been emptied of its last inhabitant, save for the sleepy cat. and me.
the last lunch bag, scooped off the banister where most mornings they line up, all three, like brown-bellied soldiers in a row. the last triple knot had been loosed from the shoelace that refuses to become a floppy bow. the shoe shoved on, clop-clop-clopped to the bus stop.
i breathed in, deep and full, for what felt like the first time in days.
a glint of morning sun caught my eye. i soaked in the silence, then heard my name whispered from beyond the smudged-glass panes.
i felt my farmer self slide over me, like an old dirt-streaked pair of dungarees. before i gave it conscious thought, my feet were sliding into rubber boots, the ones that give me license for sloshing.
i stepped out to slosh, all right, to survey the so-called fields (more like a paltry plot that i pretend is vast terrain, a patchwork quilt of winding path and pine cove, woodland and a would-be meadow, punctuated here and there with dips and rises that here in the flatlands pass for hill and valley).
caretaker of this square now brown and gray, i walked in search of winter damage, poked around beneath the withered autumn’s leaves to look for stirrings, sprouts of life that i knew–from the slant of sun, the way the light these days is pure, is warming–were apt to be crowning through the crust of nearly vernal earth.
it is, more than any other mindfulness, this act of paying attention to the rumblings of the season–bird flight and song, unfurling of tenderest of shoots and sprouts–that moors me, fills my lungs with hope and my head with wisps of possibility.
as i comb the beds, push back sodden clumps of oak leaves, shove off fallen twigs and pine cones, it is as if my fingerpads absorb the bumps of braille, and once again i’m given sight. i am reading the scripture of the springtime garden.
i can’t help but bend my lips in smile at the parsley bits of green shoving forth from underground. clearly, the sun warms some spots more than others, for there are patches still in slumber while, not far off, clumps where alarm clocks must be clanging loudly.
and then, amid the reverie of all this life, i come upon a mournful mound–of feathers, glowing white in the shafts of sunlight, just beneath the weeping willow.
how apt that the branches weep, for this is all that’s left of one of winter’s juncoes, the white-bellied, white-tailed little bird that brings me joy in december’s depth.
i’ve a hawk, a hungry one, who spends long hours in my pine trees, keeping watch for lunch. too often, he is sated.
and here amid my friday rounds, my catching up with all the news in my backyard, i find sad evidence that once again he’s struck.
and i am left to gather up a feather or two, to tuck in the holy ground where i remember all the fallen from my so-called fields.
it is sacred work, the search for newborn life as well as the lifting up of the dismemberings.
my knees wet, my fingers muddy, i register no surprise to find my soul is stirring by the morning’s end.
back to life, after a long dark winter.
have you been out to feel the pulse of coming spring beneath the crust of earth, now thawing? what is it that brings you mooring, a sense of holy place amid the madness?
Currently I feel adrift in the sea of winter and madness … both my body and soul long for Spring and for better moorings … pulling up a chair at the table always helps, for you bless us by pointing out what truly matters in life.
Oh, yes, Barbara, I am a gardener, too, and the confluence of a day off from work and temperatures in the 60s had me knees in the soft, damp soil, doing a final cleanup to clear the way for returning garden friends. It was so good to have soil under my fingernails again. Members of my condo association do not always appreciate the subtler native plants I’ve put in, nor the amazing birdlife (and some pretty darn interesting insects, too) that they attract. One spring I found the remains of an American woodcock under a shrub. It was well decomposed on the ground side — it must have been an exhausted or injured migrant — but it was fully feathered on the side covered by snow all winter. I packed it up and took it to a friend at the Field Museum for positive identification, then gave it a leaf burial under the native meadow rue in the shade garden, where I thought it might naturally have taken shelter. I did look in on it later, and found the cleaned small, paper-thin skull with its long probing beak. It was too exquisite to leave. It’s now on a shelf with vintage ornithology books, a treasure among treasures. Spring’s revelations, of endings as well beginnings, ground me in the reality always going on just outside the house and office.
beautifully, beautifully put, karen……at once striking and stirring, this discovery as we return to the earth that calls us…..