Letter from Birdland | Sharing a love of planting

Letter from Birdland | Sharing a love of planting

In Birdland, we've had a dizzying progression of seasonal changes. Warm and sunny weather followed by snow and back again to springtime.

My daffodils have been reluctant to bloom, but a few did and promptly got frostbitten. Ghost lilies came through a few snows unscathed, but for a tinge of yellow on the tips of their blades, but after this last snow, the outer leaves are slumped over limp, even if the center of the clusters stand strong and tall. Their flowers won't come until midsummer, so they are safe from freezing. Tulips haven't even dared to put up buds yet.

Today is cold, and the sky is gloomy, but yesterday's snow melted away by afternoon. It was really lovely while it lasted.

I took a detour early yesterday morning to go care for the dogs of my vacationing friends. The pups, Ellie and Primmie, had fun snuffling in the snow, but they are Yorkies and low to the ground. Their tolerance for the cold is limited, and our walk was short.

My route from their house to work takes me on a winding road through fields and trees and past a cemetery quietly filling with snow. The sky was overcast, but even so, the snow-frosted trees were stunning, and I wished I could linger.

Just a week ago, another snow squelched another neighbor's plans for a garden party. Not the kind with cool refreshments and a string quartet and tent pavilions, but a real roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-dirty-planting-seeds kind of party.

Megan is in the planting phase of her new venture, a flower farm called Backyard Beauty. She had hoped to begin planting the beds she had already prepared, but the snow thwarted her plans, and the party was canceled. It was the same storm that made me decide to change my travel plans and stay home a few weeks ago. By the next morning, the snow had all melted away, and Megan invited me to come and plant a few seeds after all.

Megan has meticulous diagrams on graph paper of her flower beds. Her gardens are quite different from the come-what-may randomness in my corner meadow.

I extend a winding path through the grasses, asters, sunflowers and trees that have come up since we started the transition from cropland to meadow a few years ago. I lay down mulch a few steps at a time, curving the path where I think it wants to bend or where I see a sapling of the kinds of trees I want to pollard (two sycamores and several mulberries — the silver maples that come up a dime a dozen I cut out early every spring).

Megan has wide beds neatly covered in mulch cloth, and already I see the future — smell the fragrance of her flowers that will offer color to the world and scent to the wind.

When I arrive, most of the snow has melted, and it looks like we will have an easy time — just pull back the mulch cloth, make rows with the hoe and sprinkle seeds in a neat line.

But we don't count on the way the snow melt has saturated the ground, droplet by droplet. I have pulled on my garden clogs, and when I take a few steps down the path between the beds, I sink into the cold mud to my ankles.

Laughing, we withdraw and reconnoiter. "What if we put mulch in the rows between the beds," I wonder, "so we have someplace to walk?" And Megan goes to the old chicken shed and pulls out neat squares of cardboard her father has saved for her. Megan makes a dock of cardboard on the row while I rake mulch into a wheelbarrow to spread over the cardboard.

I think about the two different ways we make our paths through the world, Megan and me.

One of us, a strong young woman, centered firmly on her love of family, community, tradition, home (homes both near and far). The other, deep in middle age and still finding her way one random step at a time. We are separated by a generation but joined by our desire to grow something positive: building soil, building community, planting seeds.

When we finish our path, we do, finally, pull back the mulch cloth and rake the beds smooth to plant a few rows of seeds before it it time to go. I think about how drop by patient drop, the snow melts into the soil, and drop by patient drop, my cup fills to overflowing.

Plant in beauty; build in peace; blessed be. Create in beauty; ripple in peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in visiting people in interesting pockets of culture. You can follow Birdland on Instagram (@BirdlandLetters) and Twitter (@BirdlandLetters). Mary can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com or via snail mail care of this newspaper.

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