I am impatient for sunshine and a warm front. Three reliably sunny days, sequential, preferably during a weekend. I tap my foot, cross my arms. I am testy. I’ve got work to do.
Last fall’s dead things need to be peeled from the garden bed, leaves raked, ornamental grasses–fountain, feather reed, maiden, purple fountain–plucked and trimmed. The wheel barrow has a flat tire; it’s filled with water and two bags of last year’s mulch. The compost needs tossing. October was spent with my neck in a brace, recovering from a discectomy. The garden beds are as I left them on September 30, only now with wet leaves and brittle appendages of chrysanthemums, black-eyed Susan, coreopsis, pink wand flower, aster, and others I no longer recognize in their hollowy decay.
I have work to do. I stole an hour late this afternoon and cut the fountain grass with garden shears, one small fistful at a time. The grass clippers were left out too long last fall and have rusted. I pulled at tufts of crab grass that are growing underneath the edging and claiming the beds before I have a chance to mulch.
Every day, despite the rain, I take a walk around each garden, anticipating a new burst of flowers breaking through the clay. Today it is the pink wand flower.
I’ve resisted making the first trip of the season to Country Colors, or stopping by Lowe’s to pick out this year’s gloves. If I wait, maybe the sun will come out. I am superstitious.
I slip the baby maple tree seedlings out of the foundation bed while the dirt is still wet, one at a time. The Virginia bluebells will be gone soon. I take pictures of them but the wind and my tremor create blue blurs instead.
The red bud tree is blooming early, I think. It blossomed for the first time last year. Now the branches are glowing magenta in the lowering sun. It is too cold still. I know what a frost can do.
I think of all this knowing that just a month from now I will be dripping sweat, swatting away flies, my fingernails caked in dirt and my hands stained with dandelion. The vases in the house will be filled. I will spend hours and too many dollars at Country Colors. Old, fat hippies and survivalists will be tending their narrow plots of Early Girl and Golden Boy tomatoes and bib lettuce and zucchini in the community garden beyond our yard. We call it the vegetable gulag. None of the community gardeners laugh when I tell them this. “It’s surrounded by a tall chainlink fence, you know? It’s like a prison for vegetables,” I say, trying to explain. I think they think it’s an insult.
Any groundhog we see is named either Butch or Mama. We are indiscriminate. We are hoping for baby whistlepigs but the rain has been hard and unrelenting and I worry that they might drown under the shed across from the community garden. I’ve seen Butch or Mama only a couple of times this year. The field behind us floods more quickly with each new rain.
The forecast for tomorrow is more wind, more rain. In fact, it should be here anytime now. The weatherman is saying the chance of rain is 70% and winds will be ESE, 17 MPH. It will be in the 50s again.
I won’t look at the forecast beyond that. I just want to wake up soon again with the sun bordering the curtains in the window, tapping at my head, telling me it’s time. I’ve got work to do.