I know when it is time for winter to end. It’s a morning slightly warmer than the others, and I rise from bed after having thrown off my slip in the night. I contemplate spring and removing all the layers, I desire the sun’s gentle kiss upon my skin and I want to lie in the soft grass and read novels and daydream. Spring is the season for soulful pleasure and the epicentre of my world is the garden. But the first part of spring is renewal; and I have to work if I am going to enjoy all the spoils of this season. I place my emotions somewhere between sadness and satisfaction, for winter was wonderful but now it has gone.
And so my busy mind orders what has to be done in the garden. I begin with the roses, they need to be pruned. The Pierre de Ronsard, it grows so tall now; and covers a large fence. I have a great sense of anticipation as I work away, my arms extended above my shoulders for hours. As I sweat I wipe my brow with the back of my dirty hand, it leaves a little smudge on my face. And my hair, the curls, capturing little leaves and twigs. When I come inside at the end of the first day I have a strong sense of fulfillment. I walk past the mirror and can’t help but notice I look content. That evening I ache with the satisfaction of having re-claimed my garden. The six or seven weeks I was absent have been erased.
The garden is continually calling me, and I can’t stay away. After pruning the roses I bring the orchids inside, then I shape the hedges, then I do the weeding. I gently trace my fingers across the earth in testimony of new growth. Engaged in this process of discovery and feeling like an explorer searching for treasure. I find holly hocks and dahlias emerging from the ground, already surging towards summer. My hydrangeas are covered with new leaves. All of these living things absent of senses yet bestowed with being keepers of time. Every night my thighs ache with all the rising up and down, less so as the days pass, and the dormancy of winter recedes.
The birds, there are nests everywhere. So many birds, doves and swallows and black birds. The sweetest sound, the chirping of baby birds. I wait patiently for my favourite bird of all, a tiny little finch. It builds its nest along the fence line. And every year I worry that it won’t come. It comes late in the season. This tiny little finch, it flutters rather than flies. It’s small wings moving so fast my eyes struggle to see more than a blur, almost otherworldly, like the fairies that danced in the moss when I was a child. I can still see them, a tiny figment of my imagination. When I am in my garden it as though time doesn’t exist.
And as the weeks pass I feel myself becoming stronger and stronger and each evening I feel less achy until finally the equinox arrives. The day when the earth has twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness. Noticing the refracted sunlight and being mesmerised as it dips below the horizon and night time falls. And I know then that this newness has arrived. I check the setting sun most evenings, it is my barometer for the following days weather. The colour of the sky, the translucence of the light, more reliable than any other measure.
Time passes and I admire the growth of the roses, the leaves, they are thick and lush, a royal burgundy colour. I watch them quickly turn to green. I am constantly checking; I need to make sure there is no black spot. And then the aphids arrive, hundreds of them, almost in unison with the buds. I worry and wait and worry and wait. For I want the ladybirds too, they love to feast on the aphids. But I don’t want my buds spoilt. And so I painstakingly remove the aphids; willing the ladybirds to arrive. My fingers repetitiously sweep from the base of the bud to the tip and they become stained green with the bodies of the aphids as I wait for the ladybirds. Finally they arrive, not a moment too soon.
A month gone and spring is everywhere, the remnants of winter a fading memory. My garden is filled with the fragrance of hyacinths and primrose and jasmine and my heart is happy. And the tulips, they look at me with their expressive faces; and the pansies; they honour me with their resilience. Finally, it is time to rest. I luxuriate in the sunshine of spring; for it is genteel, my senses satiated by feeling warm. I can hear the birds singing. I lie in the grass unsure of whether I am tired or relaxed but certain I am exactly where I want to be. Spring is the season for soulful pleasure and this beautiful scene, it becomes the wallpaper of my life.
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