This Thing Called Courage

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

March 1, 2006-- Looking for Signs of Spring


Rabbitt rabbitt! Does anyone say that anymore at the beginning of each new month? I'm not sure where this comes from, but we always did. In fact I still do.

While the calendar says Spring is three weeks away, the turning of the page from February to March always seems to me like the first day of Spring. I saw a robin yesterday morning on our walk along the Fells, and while it's true he was puffed out with the cold, and looked at me as if I had something to do with this cold snap-- it was a robin nonetheless. We passed right underneath the branch he was perched on, and the color of their breasts really is amazing-- not orange, not red, but a smearing of both.

It's also apparent now how strong the sun is becoming: when you park your car in the sun, then reenter it an hour or so later-- ahhhh, nice and toasty. And the buds are swelling on the trees and bushes. Trader Joe's is selling their Irish daffodils-- no, not green daffodils, but ones imported from Ireland, where bring comes earlier than here. In fact in the old Irish calendar, Imbolc (IM-muk), the spring season, begins February 1, the Feast of Saint Brigid. It's nice to think that, somewhere, grassy green fields are chock-a-block with bright yellow daffodils. Trader Joe's sells them for 1.99 a bunch, so it's pretty easy to fill up your house with those wonderfully glaring pieces of spring.

This is the time of year when you can also cut forsythia branches, slit them at the bottom, put them in warm water, and watch them open and bloom within ten days or so. Heaven! Usually by now the first crocus are up and blooming, particularly in south facing, sheltered nooks where you'd least suspect them-- and especially in places like Cambridge, Boston, and Jamaica Plain, where the heat of the city and the proximity of the coast makes spring happen there a little sooner than out here in the hills of Stoneham. But the recent cold snap has pushed this back a few weeks-- anyone sighting the first crocus, please let us know!

I woke up this morning with visions of this new garden I'm planning. I live along Route 28, a four lane highway that many commuters use as an alternative to 93 when the latter is bumper to bumper. One would never guess that behind the house on the busy street lurk four acres of rolling woods and an ancient, red-and-white barn that is classic rural New England-- a vivid and beautiful reminder of what this place looked like when it was Farm Hill, a rural part of 'Charleston Woods' before it became Stoneham. Most of the people whizzing along drive too fast and forget that this is a neighborhood, not a speedway. I am reminded of my late father, and how, when we used to play football in the street in Arlington, he would shout out, "USE WASHINGTON!" to passing cars, referring to another street one could take as an alternative to our own street. It's a handy expression and one I use to this day when too many cars go by too quickly. Nor would one guess that a family of Wild Turkeys live in these woods behind my house-- but they do, and they come out every day around four for their daily dose of cracked corn, sunflower seeds, and whatever else I have handy. (They don't like oatmeal and signal their outrage with very loud gobbles.) It's mating season now (another sign of spring!) and the males are doing their amazing puffed-up feathery display-- reminding me of some of the folks at my gym! But the puffed-up chest and extended, beautiful tail feathers are the least of it-- when in this state they move with a solemn, almost threatening gait, like actors in Kabuki or extremely serious people doing Tai Chai. Lately the males have become a bit more territorial and have been chasing the cars as they come into the driveway here-- and also chasing people. They chased 'Little Sister' yesterday as she got out of her car, and also a teenage boy walking by the house Sunday afternoon. It's too funny to watch people's reactions when this happens. One can tell that they are not, as they walk along busy Route 28, expecting a charge of outraged turkeys, issuing forth from my driveway like the dragons in fairy tales, protecting the entrance to the castle where the enchanted princess sleeps! Fionn of course takes exceptiopn to the turkeys very existence, and when he sees them his mouth starts watering for a snatch.

Anyway, I am dreaming of this garden along the front wall of my front yard bordering Main Street. This is my way of making peace with Main Street. It will be a flower garden and, who knows? Maybe the people zipping by will slow down a mite for a gander at it. As I say, thoughts of this garden-to-be were floating in my head as I awoke this morning-- I think it's this garden's way of telling me it wants to be born. There are worse ways one can occupy one's time than by making a garden. Some years ago, in my JP/Roslindale Days, Bill and Gary had bought the two-family house next door as an investment. After doing some renovations they put it up for rent, but nobody came. Bill asked me to landscape the front yard to pretty things up, and I did so. It was a small front yard, so for very short change, one could do a great transformation, including flowering shrubs, dwraf evergreens, perennials, flowering pots on the steps of the front porch and hanging baskets from the porch's ceiling. In a few short weeks it came to resemble a bower, an enchanted cottage one might see in a fairy tale. The house filled up quickly with tenants, but more importantly, the heretofore-garden-free street became something else again, as the neighbors came out and did likewise with their own front yards. Success breeds success and sunflowers, apparently, breed sunflowers.

I included a recent new work in this post (Moon Rise on the Outer Harbor) as I was going to talk about my art today-- but we'll leave that for another time-- we can and do go off on tangets. It's also Ash Wednesday today-- ashes to ashes and dust to dust and all that, so carpe diem my friends, and gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

Happy Spring!

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