Friday, April 15, 2011

Time Lapse

I left the house on Wednesday afternoon and returned the following day, about 27 hours later. What the heck happened while I was gone? Changes were so significant that I really wanted a time lapse photograph of my yard for that brief period.

You see, spring's been reluctant this year. Teasing sun one day, then growly clouds and wind and rain and even snow days thereafter. Warm afternoons, then frosty nights. Unevenness, but consistent in that spring remains in the lower realms of temperature and pleasure.

So when I trekked to the airport this week, I expected to return to the status quo. Yard perched on the edge of spring, ready to jump into the grand excess of bloom but not quite there. When I returned, I saw that my yard had moved ahead without me.

The small aspen grove was just grey and white when I left. The catkins had come and gone. The heart and initials I'd carved five years ago were clearly visible, right behind the upright log I use for a seat inside the grove. The cotoneaster spread its gawky branches on the north side of the grove, with no indication of brightening up for a spring show. The pine behind the grove stood somberly, as it has since I planted it.

But when I returned the aspen grove was a dazzle with that delicious green of new leaf, a green so intense that it almost hurts the eye! All the aspens grinned with their heart-shaped green baubles; they just looked giddy. I sat on the log seat in the grove and was covered by canopy, a salad-green duvet of brand new leaves.

The flower bed lining the south side of the house was all about anticipation when I left. Gladioli spears were poised for action. Violas had completed their debutantes' dance; the novelty of being first blooms out was gone. And the peonies, all seven of them, just looked a bit grumpy, like they were tired of doing this annual climb from dark soil to bright light.

But when I returned the flower bed was invigorated, primarily because of peony action. Looking along the long narrow bed, I saw monsters, deep burgundy claws climbing skyward. The fingered peony leaves were stretching higher and higher, opening up like sharp-nailed limbs of prehistoric beasts. I could not believe how the plants had grown in just one day. I wondered if I could catch some of that movement if I just sat there without blinking, staring at these amazing plants seeking the sun. I've pondered similarly in Decembers when an amaryllis bolts out of its pot, hellbent for the sky. Would it be possible to actually see the inch or two being added each day? Should I invest in a flower bed web cam to capture this miracle?

Like the aspen grove and the peony bed, the rest of my yard also amazed me on my return. When I left, a fan of green leaves filled one side of an island meandering across the lawn. When I returned, the buxom buds of white tulips huddled among the leaves like peasant women. They are now ready to burst open, to take off their kerchiefs and display dramatic cores of buttery yellow and black.

The spirea shrubs were nondescript when I left. When I returned, one was ablaze with rufous-colored leaves, while the other was sporting tiny banners of chartreuse. The four Cecil Bruner climbing roses were just tatters of thorned branch and dessicated leaf when I left. Now they are looking energized, with some green rising in their rusted limbs. The vinca minor along the berm are now laden with deep violet blooms and hundreds of bright leaf buds raising their hands in answer to an invisible teacher's question of "Who wants to bolt across the berm first?"

And, yes, the dandelions arrived while I was gone. Of course they were here when I left, but their glorious spikey faces were hidden in tight buds. Not now. Now they are impudent punks blaring their defiance at me.

The bolt of springtime that hit my yard in my absence makes me grin. It seems I never tire of checking out the performance in my yard. Who knows what I'll find out there this afternoon?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Buds...the Rest of the Story

What a difference a few days, some sun, and some heat make! Last week my writing about buds was pretty much cerebral, exploring them, not so much in the vivid circus of their home, but in the quiet of the library inside. Today it's visceral. What a difference!

The season has popped at my house. Last Sunday's tight fist of lilac bud is now a community, a choir of purple blossom doing its final dress rehearsal before the Big Show. Last Sunday's knobby pear tree now can't wait to prance its fluffy stuff; each bud is swollen with anticipation. Last Sunday's forsythia was a gawky bundle of sticks against the fence. Today it's a spray of yellow sun.

And the hellebores! Where last week, dozens of burgundy buds were hanging their winter-worn faces, this week the blooms are fanned in a delightful parasol of mauve and pale yellow-green. The bold pops of crocus now have their brazen daffodils buddies, punctuating the green expanse of front yard.

In this delightful week I've spent about six hours pruning, raking, mowing, and trimming in my own yard and a half hour planting my mom's early vegetables. My hands have loved getting down and dirty. I thought, this week, about the research my daughter shared with me, that kids who grow up in rural areas have fewer allergies as a result, it's thought, of lots of contact with soil, thus buiilding immunities. Adults who garden may see the same benefits. Gardening can be more than a psychic healer. It can keep the body well.

On Friday my skin loved the contact, not just with soil, but with sun: tank top and shorts were my uniform as I worked on correcting any vitamin D deficiency. For decades we've been trained to prevent Old Sol from making contact with skin and now we're being told that many of us have too little vitamin D and need to get out more. I can do this. Lizard I can become, basking away winter's indoor weariness in spring's lovely sunshine.

Ah, popping yellow flowers, deep brown earth, toasty sunned shoulders. What an incredible week it's been! What sweet pleasure the first real week of spring brings. It's no longer just thinking about the potential of a blooming yard. It's seeing, smelling, hearing, and feeling reality, a gorgeous reality. I give thanks for these abundant April blessings!