Spring came early this year, smack-dab in the middle of March. Before the auspicious Ides and without a fortune teller’s warning.
She came in time of crisis, full of sass and splash, without a bit of social distancing. Like a Vegas showgirl fan-dancing her way into a funeral, she came, and she conquered. Showering sun spangles and pink petals amid the pandemic.
And now, as we lean into April, one can only marvel at her splendid, ill-timed audacity. And shake our bowed heads at the irony — that this season of new beginnings is also the season of catastrophic contagion.
We’ve heard the word ‘hoax’ too often of late, to the point that we no longer know what to believe or who to trust. But this spring does feel hoax-like to me, a rosy ruse. I watch trees bud, daffodils and azaleas and forsythia bloom, and the goats down the road romp with new kids — and I’m confounded to be surrounded by disease and death and six-feet parameters.
I turn off the T.V., take a hike, and can almost remove myself from reality.
A week ago, my husband and I were walking our two dogs when we turned a corner and came upon a horse-drawn carriage, decked out in ribbons and hydrangea. The dogs ignored the horse, but we could not. The coachman (is that the right term in these very un-Cinderella-like times?) told us a wedding was about to take place around the corner. He said they decided to go ahead with it, and the ceremony would be for just 30. (this was when social gatherings were restricted to 50 … before they went to 10 … before the total kibosh).
The yard was perfection. Two creeping cherry trees at their peak (a word whose meaning has changed of late) bended toward one another, creating a flowering arbor. Thirty white folding chairs lined the green lawn, the pond (that our naughty dogs enjoy on hot days) gurgled in the background. Kids on bikes, neighbors with cameras, runners and walkers all slowed to watch. It was magic — a momentary reprise from mortality.
Everyone is outside more. Sidewalk chalk greetings cheer us on as we walk. Children home from school hang pictures in front windows. People wave from porches or perennial beds. There is something therapeutic about getting down on your hands and knees, wrist deep in dirt, pulling weeds and spreading mulch. Perhaps, denied the community of church, this is how we pray now.
The sun is bright. I add sunscreen to my Amazon cart, along with quarantine essentials. Pollen count is high, the windshields of parked cars coated in yellow warning. I add Allegra.
How can this be? How can a stuffy nose and watery eyes be of concern when people around the world are dying — unable to breathe and deprived of devices to help? It feels like survivor’s guilt — before the lifeboats have been filled.
There are flowers on my kitchen table — given gratis by our local supermarket. They are mums dyed in garish orange and blue — the team colors of a high school that had to cancel its own rite of spring: prom. I am grateful for the tacky blooms; sad for seniors who won’t dance or march this year.
We are holding it together by staying apart. And spring, like a prom-denied high school cheerleader, is the bouncy glue.
We’re all familiar with the pastoral platitudes: Nature heals. Sunshine is the best medicine. Flowers are food for the soul.
Spring is the season of hope and renewal, and there is much that is hopeful in these uncertain times:
- We are isolated; but finding ways to connect.
- Technology, long the poster child for the fall of culture and civilization as we know it, is allowing us to work, learn, visit virtually and share our stories.
- We haven’t gone dark or fallen into dystopian Mad Max mode.
- We are helping neighbors, holding balcony concerts, Zoom meetings and virtual happy hours, sewing masks and serving meals.
- We are, at the risk of sounding cable news smarmy — in this together.
The disasters we’re used to — ice storms and power outages, downpours that flood, hurricane gales — are regionally confined, predictable in duration. They keep us housebound until the sky clears. But Covid-19 is omnipresent, ongoing — and the blue sky above is an unreliable indicator of what lies ahead.
This is a viral wolf in sheep’s clothing. A predator hiding behind lamby fluff and flowery stuff.
And spring feels like a temptress and tease, diverting me with tulips and butterflies, a bird’s nest on the porch, green lizards in my mailbox. She lets her medical-grade mask slip, shows a bit of bucolic cleavage, and we’re all agog.
My son blames me (naturally) for this disjointed emotional reaction. He reminds me of storms past, which I welcomed and used as an excuse to build blanket forts, read by flashlight, pull out board games and build a fire. Perhaps that’s what we’re doing now, finding the silver lining within this cloudless crisis.
I slam the back door and head out to pull weeds. Because my trusty, crusty garden gloves are a more comfortable fit than the non-latex pink ones I wear when essential needs force me out.
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” That is a quote from Audrey Hepburn, the quintessential spring sprint, goddess of joy and hope and champagne flute half-full: Holly Golightly.
Think about it: I began this piece with Shakespearean references, and ended with Holly Golightly — that, my friends, is the power of sunshine!
So, plant away: Plant flowers and ferns, herbs and heirloom tomatoes. Plant time capsules … wishes written on folded bits of paper … treasures to be discovered next spring, when fevers break and the earth thaws.
Whatever the forecast, let’s plant — and live — like it’s spring.