“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Margaret Atwood
Next winter, should we start to complain about the gray season in Seattle, remind us that spring comes early. Chances are that as soon as some of us start to wonder if we can take it anymore, the season will turn a page. Already it seems to be upon us.
We have been enjoying a string of beautiful days in Seattle. The sun is clearing the sky of cloud. I do not have to imagine blue, it is blue. Crocuses are pushing up everywhere. Look up, and some trees are in bud. My neighbor’s hellebores are in full, outrageous bloom. It’s here!
With nature you just have to be there, be very, very present. So I dropped everything and ran outside to “spruce up” (I love that phrase) our little city lot. The Pacific Northwest is populated with cedars, redwoods and pines. The earth glows green, the light is green, and naturally, it smells green. In Southern California and the desert, the color green goes gray. Here, even the most mature and ancient trees shine with spring green. Each new leaf is a beginning, and each year I feel I’m being born. If I were a bird I’d fly to this part of the country. Whatever kind of creature, I’d fly, crawl, burrow, hop, swim or walk. I have found a sense of place here that I consider sacred, especially in the spring.
The Seattle Flower and Garden Show opens its doors this week. That is what I’m working toward, like a penance. I’m trimming and pruning and weeding and raking and mulching all around the house. Trimming incessant ivy and tying climbing hydrangea to the back fence. My husband is traveling and I am signing my emails to him each evening, “the yard guy.” By week’s end I intend to get to the show, that’s the goal. I just don’t want to go until I have my house, er grounds, in order. I want to go knowing that I can hold my head high, that my particular plot of earth is cleaned up and ready to receive any plants or bulbs I might carry home from this moment on.
The best is all ahead. When I am tending a garden, the plants’ well-being and my own become inexorably linked. And it works for writing as well. The door from my writing room will be thrown open to the terrace and I will start every day out there puttering around in the garden, finding my thoughts, and watering—which is like prayer or meditation, and then slip back in and write. The days will be longer. No more growing tired and ready for a nap at 4 pm.
I know I am getting ahead of myself, but I did the most significant thing this week: I opened a window. Imagine, after all this winter huddled up with rugs and throws and fireplaces. Such a simple gesture: open a window! It hits me like an epiphany every year.