the itch that comes in not-yet-spring
in which, once again, i bring you a wee bouquet, this time an assemblage from the springtime garden. . .
it creeps in unawares, something like a mosquito circling your pillow deep in the night. barely there at the edge of your consciousness, then suddenly smack dab and nettlesome straight in your face.
it’s the itch that comes in the chill of not-yet-real-spring. in the the days when drab is the only real color you see out your window. when the world seems to be broadcasting its thousand ways to be brown. or gray. or washed-out leftover green. at least that’s how it is in my humble neck of the woods.
a week or so ago i finally managed to heave the bundles of pine that had all but petrified over the winter. and all that was left in the pot by the door was left-behind scraps of last autumn’s sheddings. and then suddenly, smack dab like the pesky mosquito, i could stand it no longer.
the drab had taken its toll, the drab stirred me to action: to pick up my keys, lope to the wagon, and drive into the distance. i passed garden store numero one, where the guys were heaving large satchels of loam, with nary a pansy in sight. i motored on, further south, and a wee bit west, into the lot of the big box store, where an old man shivered inside the cash register shack, and the very bare shelves carried only one thing: the bright yellow fluttering faces i’d suddenly craved.
i snatched up three little flats, and carried them home, where the itch of not really spring has been quelled for the moment. it’s too cold for the trowel, so i’ll leave them perched where they are. but my morning’s botanic adventure, the first of the season, is giving me reason to hope. and hope is the thing that animates the first blush of spring.
once the snowflakes recede, and the thermostat warms, once march turns to april, and brings on the palette of exuberant spring, we might actually, actually turn the page on old winter.
don’t hold your breath. . . . or put away your mittens. . .
it seems my mailbox in the middles of the week finds itself with flag up, and something luscious tucked inside. this poem from joyful, wise, and wonderful lamcal, who has been a font of wonder for me for all the years she’s been pulling up a chair.
this is actually anne sexton’s poem, the 20th-century american poet known for her highly confessional works, though this confession radiates with joy.
if i was ever pushed to pick the one sub-genre of poetry that most speaks to me, it’d surely be domestic poetries. those quotidian hours and ordinary nooks and crannies of our everyday lives that are made sacramental through the simple holy practice of paying attention. perhaps you’ll consider joy the next time you towel off in your cannon bath towel, or make a chapel of your eggs. oh, anne sexton, thank you. and, even more so, lamcal. xoxo
There is joy
In the hair I brush each morning,
In the Cannon towel, newly washed,
That I rub my body with each morning,
In the chapel of eggs I cook
In the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
In the spoon and the chair
That cry “hello there, Anne”
In the godhead of the table
That I set my silver, plate, cup upon
All this is God,
Right here in my pea-green house
And I mean,
Though often forget,
To give thanks,
To faint down by the kitchen table
In a prayer of rejoicing
As the holy birds at the kitchen window
Peck into their marriage of seeds.
So while I think of it,
Let me paint a thank-you on my palm
For this God, this laughter of the morning,
Lest it go unspoken.
The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
and since april (on the morrow) is poetry month, why not one more, from one of my patron saints of poetry, mary oliver? the line i’ve emphasized in bold is the one i know by heart. i live for holiness visible, entirely. i’m guessing you do, too.
Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way
If you’re John Muir you want trees to
live among. If you’re Emily, a garden
Try to find the right place for yourself.
If you can’t find it, at least dream of it.
When one is alone and lonely, the body
gladly lingers in the wind or the rain,
or splashes into the cold river, or
pushes through the ice-crusted snow.
Anything that touches.
**God, or the gods, are invisible, quite
understandable. But holiness is visible,
Some words will never leave God’s mouth,
no matter how hard you listen.
In all the works of Beethoven, you will
not find a single lie.
All important ideas must include the trees,
the mountains, and the rivers.
To understand many things you must reach out
of your own condition.
For how many years did I wander slowly
through the forest. What wonder and
glory I would have missed had I ever been
in a hurry!
Beauty can both shout and whisper, and still
it explains nothing.
The point is, you’re you, and that’s for keeps.
~ Mary Oliver ~
and, finally, because this took my breath away in that way that only the Inklings could and can, here’s c.s. lewis trying to put language to the ineffable, talking about “the inconsolable longing for we know not what.”
he’d felt this longing his whole life – it came to him during moments of almost unbearable beauty: “[t]hat unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of ‘Kubla Khan’, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.”
have you ever heard a lovelier expression for a searching for the sacred, no matter what name you put to it? i call it Holy God. and in my heart, i genuflect each time i utter those blessed words.
what visible holiness did you stumble upon this week, and might the itch to bring on springtime have buzzed by your nose this week? how’d you satisfy the itch?
Ahhhh BAM sweet spring holiness. The early ground peeking of my mom’s 80 year old hosta still takes my breath. Bebe Blues, fussy Jays and Mockingbird songstress greet me each morning.
Thank you for the gift of your newest book. I’m determined to settle these old crone bones down and inhale every word.
Ohhhh, to have an 80-year-old hosta. Hmmm, I do think I gave a mysterious lily that somehow leapt from my grandmother’s Cincinnati garden to my mom’s 13 miles north of me to my back twenty. I think of how many chairs treasure inheritances, treasure ancient relics (I think vividly of Karen and her centenarian hardshell). We are blessed we who are the beauty in age…..and oh to hear a mockingbird sing on the dawn….
The crocuses outside my bedroom window are blooming! They greet me every morning with brilliant color. Hoping they survive the big storms predicted for later today. . . And yes, the bird song at around 5 AM! It doesn’t seem like it, but spring is here.
no crocus here yet!!! a scant few scilla. and tonight rain pounding so hard the poor petals need helmets and armor.
The wind is picking up, and I’ve just finished stowing bird bath dishes and feeders and anything else loose in the front and back yards. Mr. Cardinal saw me and flew in for a quick snack before I hauled his dish in. But while I was doing all this, I had that itch to start cleaning up the fallen stalks and the brown parchment of last year’s canopy that the tulip leaves have pierced. But another day. Meanwhile, the chionodoxa (a Tasha favorite) are in full flower, the daffodil buds are about to burst, a few hepaticas have opened, the red trillium (not the wake robins, but don’t you love that name?) have suddenly appeared, the red peony stalks grow taller by the hour, and crocuses dot the front yard lawn like mostly purple nosegays. Every year I tuck in the minimum order of 24 McClure and Zimmerman mixed bulbs (24!), and then note the holes where the squirrels have dug them up. But some prevail. And looking around the front yard, I just might get 48 this fall.
Oh, this week’s offering makes me think of an old-fashioned treasury of poems and garden watercolors, quite small and slender, but transporting in its beauty and inspiration. Thank you! (And thank you for Abigail’s shout-out!)
oh, dear abigail, always a shout out for abigail. the detail with which you recount your vernal litany is quite something. i see you crouching low to examine all your specimens, and all with such care. rain was coming down so hard here for awhile i couldn’t see out the windows. how the tender things withstood it all, we can only wonder….
bless you beautiful k, always bless you. xox
Barbie I was just up in Chicago for the Cubs opening day series and experienced the cold, grey weather, so I’m very glad that you found some living color to brighten your day. Anne Sexton is one of my favorite poets-thank you (and lamcal) for sharing her words today! They made me feel like she’d joined us at the table!
oh, if only…. (anne sexton right here at the table [sigh]…) i wondered if you were up here for opening day! and kinda couldn’t imagine you weren’t. tis mighty gray still, with gray skies now sandwiching grey earth. let us call it “earl grey weather” a name with at least a touch of class. savor your tropical surrounds, dear KIH. inhale some of it for us grey birds…..