Do you remember that old Mr. Roger's song about patience? He sang "Think of something to do while you're waiting. While you're waiting, think of something to do." That sentiment so describes my need right now. Most any gardener, or naturalist, for that matter, finds this time of year a lean one, and this year is even more difficult. We had that teasing taste of spring a week or two ago...enough to cause early fruit trees and magnolias to flower and spring peepers, wood frogs and American toads to awaken and commence their mating songs and activity...And then the bottom dropped out. The flowers froze and, this year, there will be no fruit on those trees or berries on the magnolias. What of the frogs and toads, and the eggs they laid when it was warm? Will there be new generations? Did the parents live through the sudden cold? And what became of the nectar and pollen of the red and silver maples that were flowering at the time of the freeze, first food of the season for bees?
We humans had warning of the coming freeze, and time to make preparations. In my case, that meant a mad dash to plant three new crabapple and two plum trees while I could. In time, the crabapples will form a protective thicket, with plenty of autumn and winter food for any birds that want it. Thanks to the squirrels, we may or may not ever harvest any plums for ourselves, but the leaves will be hosts to various butterfly and moth species who need that genus for reproduction.
In the midst of ice and snow, I realized it was time to start seeds for the spring that I still expect to come, at some point. I sorted through packages of cool season lettuces, kale, spinach and dill, warm season tomatoes, various peppers and lots of flowers, choosing as many as I could fit into my trays and enjoying the feel of dirt on my hands, once again. And thanks to a new propagation arrangement, I had a place to put them afterward, where I can watch those seeds grow into healthy and stocky young seedlings, ready to set out at the proper time. Like the dormant fruit trees, seeding promises hope for the future and stirs the weary imagination into remembering the colors, fragrances and tastes that are yet to come.
The morning is sunny and the beginning of warmer days ahead and on my early walk, a multitude of robins were singing away, as if spring's temporary setback was just that...a temporary setback. I am watching downy and red-bellied woodpeckers at the suet, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, chickadees, titmice, white-breasted nuthatches and goldfinches at the feeders and myriad blue jays, crows, white-throated sparrows and squirrels where I have scattered seed and corn, up the hill. I sometimes envy their lack of human ability to look ahead, to fret and worry over what is or is not going to happen, their ability to live fully in the moment, because they know no other way to live.
And at the same time, I am grateful for promise and for imagination and for being able to plan ahead, after all. I am grateful to be able to sit indoors in the company of potted plants, to dream of flowers and butterflies and bees and to think about what else I can plant for them. I am glad to look forward to the woodcocks resuming their mating flights over the fields nearby, and to hope for the frogs to resume their choruses, when the time is right. While I intellectually know that winter will not last forever, this time of year I need these experiential reminders that it is so. Soon the blessings of new growth and warm breezes, of the fragrance of the earth's awakening and the buzzing of wings will, indeed, come again. May it be soon.