Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Botanical nostalgia

The last couple of days have turned out to be surprisingly lovely here in Motown; each day, it looked like we were imminently about to get a thunderstorm, then the clouds moved off and by the time I got home from campus, the sun was shining, and it was about seventy degrees. So what else is one to do but get a bug up one's ass to trim back the ivy that's started to grow across the driveway and finally rake up all the dead leaves that have accumulated around the garbage cans? Which is precisely what I did.

Aside from such quotidian--if necessary--tasks, I've also been drooling over gardening catalogs and waxing nostalgic about the many plants we had at our old house that I miss and would like to try to grow here. My hope is that if I was eventually able to be a successful gardener on the godforsaken corner of 10th Street and 13th Avenue in Greeley, Colorado--land of drought and duststorms--I should be able to make a go of it in a more generous climate.

In particular, this time of year I've been missing the pasque flowers and the black, stubby beginnings of the Virginia bluebells that grew under the viburnum bush in a shady corner of the backyard. And later, I know, it'll be the enormous, fragrant pink peony blossoms that I'll think about, and the Canadian shrub roses and lavender.

Frankly, I can hardly believe I'm even writing any of this, since I grew up watching my mother lavish attention on her garden thinking, "What's the point?" And I honestly thought that I was doing all that yardwork in Colorado just because I couldn't understand the point of watering something as boring as grass three times a week.

But apparently I got the bug, and I get the point: gardening is a crucial way of making an anonymous space home. Waiting for the reappearance of plants you put in over the years not only marks territory, it marks the passage of time, and is a long-term investment that pays off repeatedly and continuously. So, I'm looking forward to getting my hands in the dirt here, which is so loose! Not like the rock-hard soil of Colorado...the early white settlers weren't nicknamed "sodbusters" for nothing. And already I'm thrilled to see things blooming that I never saw there--for example, this magnificent forsythia in our front yard. And the azalea bush out there is already full of buds.

Uh...clearly, I got reacquainted with my seasonal affective disorder this winter! But the long-awaited reward is right outside:

For winter's rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.

--From Swinburne's "Atalanta in Calydon" (1865)

--I think Swinburne had a bit of a case of SAD, too...

No comments: