O my God, after seemingly endless rain and gloom, we wonder if You forgot to set Your alarm. Worse, maybe You left on an infinite vacation. Then surprise! On this sunny day, Your Light drenches us. We remember that You and the sun are there always — whether we see You or not.
This spring, God has outdone Himself. Lush lilacs, like grape clusters, decorate bushes. Redbuds flaunt finery like skinny little girls wearing new Sunday dresses. Pear, crabapple, and locust trees grace the landscape like young girls on prom night.
I yearn for the trees’ beauty and fragrance the way some crave the first steak on a grill.
Not surprising, as my parents, tree huggers long before the concept became popular, adored flowering trees. Gradually, we children realized that most families’ Sunday afternoon drives did not achieve action movie status.
MOM: Ooooh, lovely dogwoods.
DAD: Aaaah, those lilacs smell wonderful. Roll down your windows.
KID #1: Shouldn’t you keep both hands on the wheel?
KID #2: How about one?
MOM: I’m holding the road. Mmmm. Isn’t God good?
KID #3: But no one’s watching the road!
KID #4: Let us pray.
ALL KIDS: Look out! (Dive for the floor.)
DAD: What’s your problem? I missed that guy.
KID #5: Um, Dad … we missed the bridge. We’re floating — sort of —
MOM: But look at those crabapples!
I succumbed to the habit, passing it on to my small children. Their pursuit of blooming beauty resembled search-and-destroy missions. When their quests expanded to others’ yards, I intervened.
“But,” I told them, “if branches hang over sidewalks, you may smell them, if you’re careful. That’s just borrowing.”
Chubby hands grasped behind their backs, they sniffed away.
I followed their good example. Besides, borrowing kept me out of trouble, too.
Our next home’s trees seemed under a curse, succumbing to lightning and disease. One of two peach trees went into a coma and never recovered.
Having witnessed her partner’s demise, the surviving peach tree eyed us with trepidation. Thankfully, Penelope, as I named her, greeted me at my kitchen window the following spring, wearing clouds of delicate salmon-colored blossoms.
We planted a redbud and two lilacs. Their first spring, they wowed us. However, the following year, they too succumbed to the curse.
I wandered the streets … and borrowed past my limit.
My husband wasn’t keen about calls from the police, so we planted a crabapple and a pear that flourished. A generous friend gave us rose of Sharon starts.
I will try not to run you down. Or miss bridges.
But you won’t mind if I borrow your trees on the way, will you?
Most people stay far too busy during spring to pause and practice their God-given powers of observation. Although I, too, keep an encyclopedia-sized to-do list, I decided to sacrifice the time, pour myself a cup of coffee and ponder spring stuff:
- Spring is when we rid our yards of pretty dandelions and violets and instead, try to grow plants whose native habitat is the Amazon River Basin.
- Some high-fashion people wear flip-flops when it’s sleeting. Other divas wear boots during heat waves. Moral of the story: Spring footwear has nothing to do with feet. Though I feel the mad urge to wear white shoes.
- Storing one’s winter woolies at the spring equinox can prove almost as dangerous as selling a crib at a spring garage sale. (Blizzard or baby, you pick.)
- A sadistic burglar obviously replaced my spring clothes with an identical wardrobe two sizes too small.
- Prom dresses currently bloom throughout area stores. Either that, or lots of people are going to Vegas.
- I may never have looked like Debbie Reynolds, but I’m a Singin’-in-the-Rain kind of girl. You?
- During early spring, strawberries taste more like medicine than a fruit. Still, I buy them.
- Doesn’t it seem sacrilegious to celebrate the Resurrection at the same time we will have to pay the IRS?
- After spring break, an epidemic sweeps our nation’s campuses, victimizing students, professors and administration alike. The name of this menace? The College Crankies. A large migration of university spouses has been noted to take place at this time.
- Have you ever noticed that spring soccer fields smell like wild onions?
- My scudsy, corroded car, whose unfortunate state hasn’t bothered me all winter, now bothers me.
- Ditto for my house’s dirty windows. And my dirty carpets. And my furniture. And. …
- Gangway! The golfers are loose!
- Now that spring has arrived, my husband no longer gripes about my sleeping with the window open. An added bonus: a nearby frog choir provides a nightly lullaby to ease us into Dreamland.
- No five-star restaurant’s swanky French dessert menu could hope to rival the first luscious, drippy ice cream cone of spring.
Perhaps it’s time to rouse myself from my profound cogitations and determine if this year’s cone will uphold the standard.
No weightier spring pursuit than that.
What’s your favorite spring stuff?
May madness sent me to greenhouses and discount stores, lusting after flower displays, amassing bags of manure as if hefting bags of gold. My car (a.k.a. the Flowermobile) resembled an escapee from the Rose Parade.
For awhile, I dove into dirt with the joyful frenzy of a toddler dressed for Sunday school.
I cooed at my baby plants, positive they would star as celebrities on the cover of Burpee Catalog. All this, despite 35 years of profound evidence to the contrary.
Each August, I finally face the truth: flowers growing between railroad tracks look better than mine.
No wonder. We own the only infertile piece of ground in Indiana.
Still, I nurture my flowers. I even read my blog to them every week. Yet the little rebels conspire to make me crazy.
Maybe some of their gripes are legitimate. My flower pot arrangements look as if Alien Florists, Inc., designed them. My petunias now realize the awful truth: they were adopted by a gardener with a mutant thumb.
“Be patient,” I advise. “In time, those lumps will shift to the right places.”
My mother told me a similar tale when I was 13.
It has never happened — for the petunias or me.
While I sleep, a flora/fauna mafia operation flourishes. Impatiens on one side of the flower bed strike protection deals with the rabbits. How else can I explain why impatiens thrive there, unmolested, while the other side resembles the Garden of Eaten?
My flowers do not appreciate the armies of weeds I’ve fought, the lethal squads of mosquitoes I’ve defied to water them. No gratitude is expressed for expensive gourmet fertilizers I’ve served them. Just flower attitude: I will bloom if, when and where I please.
Meanwhile, the only thing that grows prolifically is my Visa bill.
Finally, I snap. Instead of pampering the little ingrates, I bike through the countryside. But I find no refuge from flowers there. Fields of elegant Queen Anne’s lace mingle with masses of fuzzy blue bachelor’s buttons. Blooming morning glories overrun miles of fences and fields.
“Rub it in, Lord,” I mutter. “Even cow pastures look better than my yard.”
Still, I can’t help but enjoy His exterior decorating and appreciate once more where flower power comes from. Even a Better Homes and Gardens guru can’t grow one petunia unless the Master Gardener supplies miracles of seed, soil, sun and rain.
The biggest miracle of all? He lets gardeners with mutant thumbs help Him.
Tell me about the Flower Power in your yard.
Oh, my God, when Hubby said, “Rachael, did you plant flowers under our patio table?” I answered, “Yeah, right.” But this stubborn petunia had bloomed from a crack in our patio, and instead of yanking it, I’ve watered it. OMG, You know I’m cracked, too. But let your beauty find a place to grow in me.
I first noticed these bashful flowers as a preschooler. While dandelions flaunted fuzzy beauty like Hollywood starlets, violet faces peered at me shyly through leafy green hands. Mom said I could pick them! — unless they grew in other people’s yards.
One day my sister and I gathered a legal but meager violet bouquet in our grandparents’ backyard — until we wandered toward the neighbors’ weathered house. It resembled a log cabin. Did Abraham Lincoln live there? Even that possibility paled beside the ocean of violets before us. God liked purple, too!
The serious business of picking them all consumed us. I knew we should ask permission, but loudly legitimized our actions by announcing we were gathering special flowers for Mommy and Grandma. When we brought them wilted, wadded bouquets, Mom confirmed my niggling conscience’s pointing finger. We had crossed moral boundaries. The good news: too late to do anything about it. I loved it when sin worked out that way.
Not long afterward, Grandma died, and I never visited the magic Sea of Violets again. But as I graduated from picking flowers to picking guys, I never forgot them.
The spring break before high school graduation, I took an all-day walk around my hometown. Like any respectable teen, I’d hated it for years. Now, deep inside, I knew I was leaving Columbus, Indiana, forever. One shabby bungalow’s yard stopped me in my tracks. Thousands and thousands of purple violets. Now 18 and an official grown-up, I didn’t dive in. But I stood, mesmerized, for sometime.
I hung that violet picture on my mind’s walls. When my then-boyfriend, now-husband asked about a prom corsage for my lavender dress, I answered, “Violets.” I loved them — and didn’t want him to feel obliged to give me an orchid, the obvious, expensive answer.
Unbeknownst to me, his mother would lie awake nights because she could not find a violet corsage.
“Haven’t used violets in 40 years!” one florist said. “What kind of nut is your son dating, anyway?”
Finally, she told Steve his girlfriend’s purple passion would have to take a different direction. How about white carnations? Pink roses?
Oh. I hadn’t thought of that.
My date, who had remained silent during this woman debate, decided on a white orchid.
The violet vision must have remained with my future mother-in-law, though. After a church banquet, she instructed Steve to give me its centerpiece, a huge bunch of violets. Did she like me? I hoped so. Whether she knew it or not, she had become part of my violet history.