“Spring is the season of exquisite redemption, a slam-bang return to joy after a season of cold second thoughts.” ~Barbara Kingsolver
It’s been since late October that I put my garden tools away. Rosebushes pruned, dead annuals piled up in the green waste bin, the very last of the weeds pulled. A few new bulbs planted.
But now it is spring. Now it is time to go back outside and greet my garden.
When I stepped out onto my grass yesterday morning, my bucket in my gloved hands, I had to pause for a moment. Under my maple tree—the tree we planted when Haley was one week old—the daffodils are blooming, mixed with three shades of pink hyacinths. Already the crocus are passed and gone, the Grecian windflowers almost over, but the rosebush is spreading out its red leaves and the poppy is a tidy green mound.
I set my bucket down next to the rosebush that in another month will bloom its pale magenta blossoms, the first thing I planted in my flower beds, and just walked around my front yard. My front yard. More hyacinths, more daffodils, the grass so green now, and one orange tulip. I sat on the steps of my front porch, and before I got to work I just took it in. Just savored it. Just felt it all once again, my little-girl self who loved flowers more than almost anything, who sometimes lay in the dirt under a cornstalk just to see if she could watch the purple morning glories open. The barely-an-adult person who planted that first rosebush. My faint but true memory of my grandpa Fuzz kneeling next to me so he could answer right in my ear that the delightful flower I had just found in his garden was called a bleeding heart. Watching my dad plant the maple tree in our front yard, witnessing its yearly growth from my bedroom window and then, years later, watching my kids climb it. Planting my first spring bulbs in the autumn before Haley was born, planting hostas one spring day with Jake when he was three. Nathan crawling towards bright orange daylilies on a hot day in August, Kaleb lining up and making patterns with the garden tools. All the days of my children’s childhoods when they would play outside with friends and I would watch them while I gardened, and every so often they’d stop by to help. The way it felt, the spring after Dad died, to see the tulips, daffodils, and grape hyacinths he’d planted bloom even though he was gone—like a greeting, like a reminder that he loved us still.
I sat there on my porch, where I have sat some minutes or hours during the days of the past 26 years. This place I have owned and cared for. This garden I have cared for, and which cares for me. I know—maybe that sounds silly. How do flowers do anything but bloom? But they do care for me. They lift my spirits. There is a restorative power in their presence. They are like friends, returning each year. My trees are confidants and sometimes I just stand next to them, touching their bark and feeling their deep connection to the earth and thus finding my own place upon it. They are each a symbol, of a sort, of memory and of who I have loved and been loved by and of hope.
“To plant a garden,” Aubrey Hepburn said, “is to believe in tomorrow.” When that orange tulip first bloomed—only a few weeks before Haley was born—it was already a connection to the past autumn day when I planted it. But it was also a connection to Saturday, when I sat with it at my feet, when I leaned in close to examine its dusty stamens, when I texted that same daughter.
A garden is hope for the future, but it is also connection to the past. It is nurturing and being nurtured.
I know not everyone has this blessing. I know not everyone needs or even wants it.
But I am still as grateful today as I was that day, when I was 22 and learned how to plant roses, to have my place, to have my garden, to love my flowers and hug my trees and walk barefooted through my green, soft grass.