Letting things come
Nature's Notebook - Tim Abbott
June, 03, 2010
There were fireflies in the meadow two weeks ahead of schedule, winking in their dozens to my surprise and delight on the 22nd of May.
It has been like that all spring, with each new arrival seemingly on the early side of its natural range of variation. The yellow ladyslippers bloomed and faded before Memorial Day, and their pink cousins were up early as well.
One must stay curious and alert to the progression of “firsts” in spring. Let your mind wander to worldly cares, and the morels come and go by the wayside.
Not only species but individuals have their own timetables in spring. One gravid snapping turtle may heave up out of the swamp and make her ponderous way across the road in search of the right spot for her nest, while another hesitates. One Jack-in-the-pulpit in my garden emerges and blooms several weeks before another not 3 feet distant under nearly identical growing contitions.
I like little better than homemade pie, and what better filling than the fruits of the season? One could track the weeks from spring through summer in pastry: rhubarb, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, cherry, and peach. I am watching my blackcap vines starting to flower, and the raspberry canes that will bear fruit in July. I am eyeing the wild grapes and wondering if I will have the ambition after the frosts of fall to collect enough for that heavenly jelly.
My wildflower beds are gaining complexity and character like fine wine as they mature. I like my wildflowers feral, volunteering in new spaces and growing amid and around each other as they will. I delight when the bluebells disappear from one spot and reappear somewhere else. I scatter seed and deliberate before dividing. I find blue-eyed grass where none had been before. I expect and combat this tendency in weeds, but celebrate it in wildlfowers.
There is usually a light breeze in late afternoon, and I was certainly grateful for it when I put in my vegetable garden on the third weekend in May. I felt the honest ache of spaded earth and stiff knees pressed into the soil as I transplanted seedlings.
A new garden is all about patience and expectancy, in a time of no blight and no drought and months to go before the tomatoes are fat on the vine. The growing season may last through September, or finish with a hard frost soon after Labor Day.
We have what the moment offers, when it is ready, when we are ready.
Tim Abbott is program director of Housatonic Valley Association’s Litchfield Hills Greenprint. His blog is at greensleeves.typepad.com.