Going back to the beginnings. I pick the brown, dried leaves off the plants, rake the dried-up ground, looking for signs of life. The day, a Saturday, grows warm. Anne and I take on the front yard. I find the green leaves of the tiny crocus plants, but if they flowered when we were off on our vacation trip, if they flowered at all, and the blooms they have vanished without a trace now. I clear the leaves from a cluster of tulips but the teeth of the rake tangle with the new green and tear off a flower stem: one tulip we will never see this year.
The signs an extra-long winter; the body count is high. I try to remember what's missing.
Some hyacinths, with pink and white flowers, emerge from under the line of boxwood shrubs along the sidewalk. Some color at last. I remind myself I have some new ones to plant there; the area needs perking up. Spring needs brightening. It feels to me that the first wave, the avant garde, has been decimated. The next wave is tulips and vinca; it will get better. Besides, I had half of April in Lebanon; not a fair comparison.
On the strip of earth between the sidewalk and the street, I rake carefully looking for green growth to jar my memory. What did I put there? Green fingers groping among the dead leaves, a slight fuzz on their surface. Ah yes, it comes back to me. Last fall I transplanted some blacked-eyed susans into a rough-weedy patch. I am an opportunity gardener, and the opportunity came when these bold volunteer perennials, seeded by a previous generation, planted themselves in the minute creases of space between bricks in the back garden walks. It was a challenge merely to remove them with some remnant of root stringing along behind the fuzzy leaves and stem.
I planted them into a spot I usually abandon to the volunteers of the wild weed kingdom of Quincy -- weeds, the world's most reliable survivors -- because it's the place where the trash barrels and their tops inevitably end up ever the garbage men are through tossing them. Some of these transplants took and put out their happy-faced yellow flowers with dark "eyes" in the center before winter closed in. Trash cans landed on them anyway. So, I thought, let's see how they measure up against the toughest competitors the city has to offer: garbage men and weeds. Some appear to be back.
This is how we start out each year. Life crawling out of the primordial ooze. Bare earth, twists of root, scraps of litter, brief flashes of early bloom, twigs, broken branches and other remains of last year's plant materials. A slow start; a desperate hunger; the world needs greening.
It will come. Day by day we see it. The green will overtake the brown. We're the observers. We work around the edges of things. We clear up the waste.
Living things with the deepest roots, it seems to me, keep the truest time. Trees are blossoming, just when they should. The weeping cherry tree whitens in its season. All else will follow.