I’ve taken a few weeks off. I haven’t been writing, and for a while I wasn’t even taking any photos. When my short-term job finished at the end of April, my daily schedule dissolved into mush.
And it strikes me that — as much as I like newness and adventure — I need a daily rhythm to ground me. In musical terms, I could improvise to my heart’s content, but without a steady beat to act as counterpoint, creativity becomes chaos. And chaos is confusion, quicksand, energy-sucking distraction.
My partner has started a short-term job, and I needed to clear my desk to make room for her laptop. The dining room table is now covered with the non-essential papers and peripherals that were cluttering my desk. And I discovered my missing lens cap. And I’ve discovered that I like the look of the desk with just a computer and keyboard, a lamp, a storage drive or two. I like the way it looks clean and non-distracting. It helps me to see where I’m going, to remind me of the tasks I have set for the day, and the long-term goals that will keep me from getting too sidetracked.
And I know I will get sidetracked. It always happens. There be dragons, sloughs of despond and other obstacles along the way. As Ferron sings in “Ain’t Life a Brook”: “Life don’t clickety-clack down a straight-line track, it comes together and it comes apart.”
And then it comes together. Confusion gives way to clarity. Something clicks, and a new adventure begins. And I pick up the camera, and new images inspire new words, and here I am, on track: ready to begin again.
It’s that first whiff as a wave of wood smoke wafts by your nose. It’s the lawn chairs pulled out from the back of the garage, now waiting on the patio. It’s the surprising warmth of the sun in the late afternoon. It’s the pile of brush heaped into the portable firepit, spitting sparks and sinking into coals and ash. It’s all of this that draws me outdoors, out into the fresh spring air.
That’s when the bag of marshmallows emerges, and last summer’s marshmallow sticks are pulled from their hiding place. The stick ends are whittled clean, and the familiar ritual begins. Bundled against the chilling breeze, we lean into the warmth of the fire as we meditatively twirl our marshmallows over the hot coals. Smoke tendrils spiral upwards as the white-coated sweets turn brown and pocked with heat. I lift the perfectly toasted marshmallow to my mouth. Mmm.
Photo taken on April 10, 2011
I’ve been waiting for this, for the tiny patch of purple here, the splash of golden yellow there, for the crocus and scilla and hyacinth, the johnny jump-up and colt’s foot, the first flowers of spring.
It’s not easy to find flowers in our neighbourhood, as the deer have been brazen, nibbling the tender new growth as soon as it emerges. There are hoofprints in our flower beds at the front of the house, and signs that the deer have been leaping the fence to empty our bird feeder at the back. Some people put human hair around their tender plants to discourage deer, and others cover their beds with tangles of wire and fencing. Many people seem to have given up; they have no flowers at all.
We, on the other hand, are planning a bountiful crop of flowers, herbs and vegetables. My partner has been poring over seed catalogues and garden advice for months, charting hours of sunlight and drawing beds and borders. We have tiny kohlrabi and calendula seedlings up already, with many more expected to follow soon. And, yes, plants die, they fall prey to fungus and pests, drought and deer, but — this is my philosophy — if you plant generously, there will be enough for the pests, the deer, and you. And perhaps you will discover a patch of carrots miraculously untouched by worms, or a basketful of beans, or a pocket of perfect golden flowers to make you stop, and smile, and marvel at the persistence and bounty of life.
Photo taken on April 3, 2011
I’m glad spring doesn’t wait until the snow is gone. It doesn’t wait for the solstice, the calendar, the ideal configuration of the earth and the moon or the planets in their courses. It doesn’t even wait for the detritus of autumn leaves and mulch to be removed. Spring is ready at any opportunity — it rushes in from every direction as soon as winter turns its back. And all of a sudden (or so it seems), everything is growing again.
In our front flower bed, a bevy of bulbs are busy pushing their green shoots into the air. There’s a whole crowd of them now, the same shape and height, growing taller and stronger as the day itself grows longer and warmer. I imagine them greeting each other as they emerge from their winter hibernation. Hello neighbour, lovely day, how did you enjoy your vacation, nice to be out in the fresh air, watch out for those deer… The garden, the field, the forest is full of the soft murmur of leaf and frond, seed and shoot.
Yesterday, we marked St. Patrick’s Day with the wearing of the green. The natural world is right in sync, emerging to celebrate the first garden party of the year.
Photo taken on March 17, 2011
It feels like a miracle, the way the winter has all but disappeared. Barely more than a week ago, it seemed that the tall snowbanks and thick ice would never leave, but then the mild temperatures and rain arrived and washed most of it away. It’s hard to describe that sudden burst of joy I felt on seeing patches of bare garden already showing signs of life, how quickly the green shoots are starting to emerge!
As the spring solstice nears and the sap starts running, I feel my own energy level respond. I walked in the garden yesterday without a jacket, and it felt like such freedom. The birds are more plentiful, and more vocal, too; yesterday we heard a cardinal, and saw a small flock of red polls in the maple tree. Spring is arriving and I want to be outdoors; I want to revel in it.
There are changes in my own life, too. On Saturday, my partner and I played our first ever “gig”, a 30-minute program of harp & recorder while guests gathered for my aunt’s 95th birthday party. We had both worked hard to prepare the music and it showed; we actually sounded good, and — bonus — it was fun!
And tomorrow I will be celebrating my 50th birthday. This turning of the year is also a turning point in my life. I don’t know what to expect, or even what I’ll be doing in a few months, but I have a hunch that whatever happens next is going to be good!
Photo taken on February 21, 2011
I heard the fog horn sounding last night, and woke to fog blanketing the city. I like the way fog muffles the sound of the construction crew down the street, and softens the edge of buildings. In the summer, when it is hot and sunny upriver, it is often cool and foggy in town. I don’t mind.
Taken on May 31, 2009.