Tag Archives: spring

Except for this

Our house seemed like the dividing line for tonight’s sky. To the north of us, the clouds were a heavy, low-hanging gray with one bright circle of blue. To the south of us, puffs of clouds scooted across toward Vermont, while the sky around them was a clear-all-the-way-to-another-galaxy icy blue. At the tree line between us and the neighbors, a herd of deer stopped to graze on the newly uncovered ground.

The wind is gusting at us from the northwest, but the spruce trees outside my window seem to only be doing a slow-motion wave in response. Those trees are currently home to a male and female cardinal, a whole bevy of black-capped chickadees, and other birds that I see flitting about but haven’t yet been able to identify.

With the turning of the calendar to March, the earth around us seems to be breathing again. The ice that had everything locked in its grip is losing its hold, and the snow and low temperatures seem unable to stick around for very long. The air outside no longer feels like a slap with an accompanying two-fingered jab up my nose, and when I was scrabbling around in the garden this morning, I found chives starting to poke their pointy green heads out of the ground. Green things! Growing!

As the snow and the earth start to melt, gravity and the slope of the valley are pulling the water toward the lake to our east. The driveway has a creek running down its right side, and the culvert opening across the street by our mailbox has a whoosh of water flowing out of it. At night, the puddles in the yard crust over with ice again so that our evening walks include that satisfying crackling-crunching noise.

Most of the main vegetable garden is showing again, and the tiny hoop tunnel I put over the escarole last November is still standing (though I’m placing no bets on the remaining two escarole plants). The garlic and shallots are still covered by their blanket of leaves, and the row of asparagus gleams a faint yellow when the sun hits the layers of straw. Last fall, I planted daffodils and tulips at the ends of rows, and I walk by and squint to see if any of them are making an appearance. Not yet, though it won’t be long.

I have celeriac, onions, and parsley seeded, a gentle easing-in to the extensive seeding that will happen in April. There are forsythia, lilac, and apple blossoms just around the corner. (And mud. A lot of mud.) The clothesline will be stretched between buildings soon, and that fresh smell will fill the drawers again. The grill will be rolled out, fired up, and cooking by Easter weekend.

I don’t particularly like winter, except for this: without winter, the euphoria that is spring in the Northeast doesn’t happen. I am reveling in the changes.

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I’m sorry, Ms. Heard

I am supposed to be writing about my writing space
but the snow is melting so fast
I think I can hear it.
The sun is moving west over the mountain
and its light is golden on the
winter-browned and tangled grass.
The breeze is blowing the oak tree’s branches
and the tips of them are a reddish brown
waiting to push out their new leaves.
The water is running in rivulets down the drive
and along the road; it puddles in low spots
and forms a rapid through the culvert.
At first glance, everything is destruction,
but a closer look reveals the swelling buds
that will be peach blossoms.

Writing Hides

Writing hides in the fluffed tail of the fox
and the crushed grass under the spruce
where the fox rested for an hour.

It hides in the earthy smell of the dirt
and the miniscule celeriac seeds in the packet
that I cradle in the seed trays.

Writing hides in the browned patches of grass
and the broken lily stems in the rock garden
where the snow is slowly receding.

It hides in the earlier rise of the sun
and the lavender light on the mountain
as Spring makes its way north.

This morning’s thinking-about-writing with Georgia Heard’s book asks, “Where does writing hide?” The chapter starts with Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Valentine for Ernest Mann,” which I have loved since the first time it was read to me. It was my Valentine’s Day poem for my students every year, and then we wrote our own versions. Today’s is my most recent incarnation–some ideas never get too old to explore. I love that this is different every time I write it. This was an especially comforting writing today, since it’s snowing again.

Alien life-forms, bumblebees, and dinner

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Spring is showing signs of sticking around. The bumblebees are always one of the first signs that there will be warmth again soon. When I first moved to the Northeast, and saw those zeppelins flying around, I was terrified. I thought people were feeding bees steroids. (They might live in Florida, too, but I never saw one there.) I could only obsess about how it would feel if one of those suckers stung me. Now, I’m always ecstatic to see them. And that loud, humming buzz makes me smile. How could I not love such an ungainly, enthusiastic creature? I was thrilled to see two of my favorites–Nanking cherry blossoms and a bumblebee–in front of the house the other day.

The planting continues, with a Gala apple, two Montmorency cherries, a Seckel pear, two high-bush blueberries, and an assortment of ornamental shrubs. One of them, speaking of enthusiasm, is a forsythia. Ohhh, that yellow! I read a very respected gardener’s opinion of forsythia early last winter; she called them gaudy, among other things. To that, I have one thing to say: pssshhhttt. Whatever.

I seem to have settled on my early spring planting uniform:
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I might like bright colors. I might also not care too much about matching when I’m gardening. If this next phase of my life isn’t working out financially, my fashion sense indicates that I could always be a clown, no?

But here’s hoping that this next phase includes cooking for others, and doing tasty farm-to-table things. A recent, simple recipe that we had is something I’d be happy to pay for in a restaurant. It involved a lion’s mane mushroom, which I had never seen before last week, when we got our CSA share. We had one lion’s mane, one oyster, and one large shitake. The lion’s mane is definitely one of those, “So, who do you think first looked at that and thought ‘Hey, I bet that tastes good!'” foods. I had to look it up, because I was sure someone had made a mistake and given us an alien life-form. But, nope.

It turns out that they hold a ton of moisture, and it’s wise to squeeze that out (yes, squeeze away…it can take it…just don’t wring). I took the blogger’s advice and sliced the mushroom thinly, then seared it in olive oil and butter.
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After searing it and the oyster mushroom pieces, I set them aside and slow-cooked an onion with some red pepper flakes. I tossed in a rinsed can of cannellini beans, some salt and pepper, and towards the end, I wilted in some spinach. If my husband wouldn’t have protested his lack of dinner, I would have eaten the whole pan myself. Simplicity in a skillet, and so delicious. The lion’s mane was a little chewy, the oyster mushroom was meaty, and there was a lot of savoriness to the dish. I might actually seek those crazy looking things out, next time I’m at a grocery store.
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Do I Believe in Miracles?

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Ragged, split, and stained
my fingernails tell my truth:
     the sun was out today
     so I played in the dirt.

I clipped and I weeded,
I pulled and I planted.
     This is how I worship
     the thing so much bigger than I.

Do I believe in miracles?
I brushed crumbly soil aside
     and there was a universe of earthworms,
     a grayish-green twirl of lavender leaves.

Do I believe in magic?
The purple bud of a lilac
     pushes open its leafy casing,
     reaching toward sunlight.

Do I believe in love?
The lilies point skyward
     reddish whirling leaves
     greeting a new spring.

I kneel in the dirt,
dig my fingers deep,
     and chant,
     “Thank you.”
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