it’s come to this:
starved, hungry, every pore of our souls aching for release from the waning soot-sodden days of winter, i slide into sloppy old boots. clippers in hand, clippers that haven’t been shaken from their deep winter slumber in too long a while, i trudge across the ice-crusted snows. crunch-crunch goes the sound of my footfall. i pass bumper crops of pellets, rabbit pellets, i presume, and splashes of blood-orange whose origins i can’t bear to ponder. they’re the scant signs of life here in the tundra that is my back garden.
i’m on a mission. a mission to bring on an awakening, a seasonal awakening. and if i need to indulge in trickery, in prestidigitation with clippers, well then, that’s what i’m signed on to do.
it’s simple enough, this magic trick: trudge to your nearest forsythia bush, snip at the neck, all those long-limbed branches that, at this point in the year, look like little more than so many tangled sticks.
ah, but look and look closely: see the nubs tucked close to the stick, the tiniest hands clasped in prayer? those are the wee little blooms in the making, the sepal and stamen all huddled together, awaiting their cue. their cue of course comes from the sun, its angle and surge. any day now, the globe will have spun far enough, aligned us with just where we need to be for the vernal awakening.
but sometimes you just can’t wait. you need to get out there with clippers and boots and hurry it up, put gas to the seasonal pedal. (even when you preach the gospel of savoring the slow march of time.)
oh, there are signs that springtime is coming. they’re trickling in, a bit more by the day. i’ve heard it in birdsong. the birds aren’t checking their date books, aren’t awaiting the thaw. they’re warbling their vernal love-making hearts out, because that’s what you do when your DNA insists you perpetuate the species. you make it your job to whistle up an egg-laying mate. or at least someone with whom you can coo in the cold. and the light? the light is purer, less blue, more white. it’s straining to gather full steam — or something more zaftig than the pale arctic puff that’s kept us shivering in our cotton-lined boots.
my mama, of course, taught me this trick, and her mother before her, most likely. i might come from a long line of seasonal tricksters, miscreants of natural ilk.
it’s called forcing, and it’s plain old alchemy of life: warmth + water = blossoming. and it goes something like this: trudge. snip. fetch. plunk in water, warm water. wait. bloom. voila, you have forced.
i looked up the word force. it’s not pretty. it cropped up in the 14th century, with roots in old french. forcer, “conquer by violence.” egad. guilty as charged, me and my sharp-toothed clippers. too hungry to wait for the seasonal rotisserie to turn up its offerings in natural rhythm.
no, i had to conquer by violence, if snipping a branch at the neck is deemed a violent act (and if you were a bush you’d certainly say so).
and if dragged into the court of seasonal acceleration, i’d plea for a wee bit of compassion. i’d try to explain that here in the wee days of march, here when we’ve indulged in the season of winter with its depths and certain deprivations, we can’t help but respond to the seasonal tug, the one that pulls us, yanks us, into the next chapter. it’s akin to the itch that sometimes finds us leaping ahead in the steamiest novel, to peek at how the story unfolds, who marries whom in the end, and whose days are numbered.
my winter, you see, has taken a serious turn for the dregs in the last couple weeks. people i love are suffering, are scared, are facing the darkest of days.
i’m so itchy for light i won’t be surprised if i strip down to my bare naked legs and pull out a chair to soak up the lamest, the flimsiest of rays. in my snow-laden yard that would be.
but the light that i seek, truth be told, is the light that shines in the soul. illumination of the deepest kind. i pretty much stumble through days — from hour to hour — with the words of my pleas and incantations rising up from my lips. there is so much to be prayed for. there’s so much at stake.
and that, in part, is what drew me to clomp through the snows, to clip what the old bush had offered. “here’s your rare chance at the promise of spring,” it whispered. and i answered. with clippers.
dear chairs, are you too going a bit batty by now? are you aching for the stirrings of spring? oh, for the day when the wee slips of green poke their hard heads through the soft crust of earth.
so what might be the seasonal rites and holy vespers you indulge in to beckon the resurgence of soul?
Oh yes, my soul is longing for Spring in so many ways. Love the bottom photo of the clipped branches on that wonderfully inviting table. A certain person I work for has a rule which his father says he instituted as a wee child: “If it doesn’t go easy, force it.” Sometimes it’s a good rule. 🙂 Holding you close in heart, as always. xo
i’m pretty sure that was my fix-it mama’s rule whenever she was struggling to make something work: just push harder!
even for my pacifist heart, i understand the occasional need to crank the gas. will let you know if these sticks decide to do anything other than be sticks. xoxoxox
With 8 inches yesterday, I was just out shoveling and checking the buds. Thanks to you, I cut a sprig of forsythia and will pray to see those golden blooms soon. (3 more days to finish the Camino)
dear pjt, SO SO sorry that we’ve sent our snows scattering your way……DC will be on lockdown till the melting rolls in….
Just took out my favorite Spring watercolor of daffodils, and will buy some fresh blooms to join it. Wanted to share a quote from the novel, “Ordinary Grace” by Kreuger- may it fill your hopeful and hurting heart. ” in your dark night, I urge you to hold your faith, embrace hope and to bear your love before you like a burning candle, for I promise you that it will light your way “
beautiful. promise is a fulsome word. a word filled with certainty. especially as written above.
oh, the daffodils…..
Yes, it’s time to prune the old grape vine at my dad’s house. The magnificent, exuberant ancient grape vine that starts as a single cracked woody stem at the ground, snakes upward and quickly overtakes, sprawls out from, the custom-made arbor that spans the little garden sidewalk. My dad did the careful trim during February thaws, but the last few years, for various reasons, it’s been done in March. It didn’t seem to harm grape–and jelly–production. By Sunday I expect the 2 feet of snow in his back yard to be gone, and I’ll drag over the step ladder and clippers and try to do the dear old vine justice. While I snip, I’ll whisper my thanks for last year’s bounty and encourage it for this year. Even though the gardener is gone, the garden will go on at least for a while.
dear karen, bless you for carrying on the garden, especially in these hours of deep grieving.
it is a sacred thing to tend to a garden when the gardener is taken. your tending brings new life to the vine, the resurrection of spring into summer and on into harvest. sacramental jam-making that will be.
i once wrote about a garden that haunted me, when i feared it had lost its gardener. perhaps something in the story below will resonate…..(and here is a very big hug to carry you along…)
Many thanks. Wasn’t there a meandering about this house and garden too? With a happy ending?
actually, i forgot that there was a sweet ending meandering. and here it is……
Oh, my friend, your way with words…. “see the nubs tucked close to the stick, the tiniest hands clasped in prayer?” What a lovely image… I’ll never look at a forsythia branch, or a lilac branch in the same way again.
I, too, long for spring’s unfurling. At this time of year, when I’m longing for spring, I dive into my felted wools and beads and floss and stitch myself a floral world of my own imagining. I also head for the art museum to absorb color and light. As it so happens, I’m going there this afternoon with my beloved 89 year old sidekick: my dear, dear dad.
Today, the sky’s a clear blue, and the March wind’s whistling a spring song, and all the trees are waving at me. Soon, the snowdrops and the tender crocuses, soon the violets… x o x o
i love that you have a sidekick. what a glorious thing to head to the art museum, to breathe in an afternoon of vivid color and light, side by side with your pops.
you are making me yearn to pick up a needle. and thread. many many threads…..
My firstborn daughter arrived on the first day of Spring, so I always equate her beauty to that of the daffodils and iris that arise in all their yellow and purple splendor (those two colors are magnificent together). Here in the mountains of northern Arizona, warm weather has caused all of our trees to bud and blossom early. I always worry about my trees because, like many years, winter wants to come from behind the curtain for an encore – we’ve even seen flurries of the white stuff as late as May. While we only get a wee bit of snow compared to the Windy City inhabitants, even we are yearning to see Spring sprung! xox
soothed at the mere mention of trees in blossom! and not because they’re “forced.” love that your firstborn came on first of spring, and my firstborn on first of summer…..the awakenings that come with every season’s turning….xoxox (crossing fingers for no high desert snow for you this year….)