Real Gardens, Shut Up and Dig

Spring Fever

As the garden wakes up, I find I spend more time in that stock-still, mesmerized state that, let’s face it, is the point of all this garden work. Though planting, caring for the plants, and editing them all have their satisfactions, being absorbed in the garden is my favorite gardening activity.

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The newly uncovered lily pond.

This new garden of mine has a lily pond which I did not create, and that pond is home to a big frog and an assortment of small fish. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve gradually removed its winter blanket, and the lily leaves have begun to emerge. The larger variety’s orange-tinted leaves start as pointy, rolled up leaflets that look a lot like the fish. The other lily variety raises tiny leaves above the water like the hands of inquisitive merfolk.

I sit by the pond in my new courtyard, and if I’m fairly quiet and slow as I walk over and take my seat, slip off my shoes and put my feet up on the opposite lawn chair, the frog will remain in place, eyes slitted, only his bumpy green-black head showing above the surface. If I walk too quickly or otherwise startle him, under he goes with a plop.

Between the frog, the fishes, the plants, the sun, and the near-constant breeze, I am wholly absorbed, body and mind. Ideas flow through my thoughts, echoing the clouds moving across the sky. Solutions arrive. Tension dissipates. This is true peace, and I have made it possible simply by fencing this part of the garden and setting up a couple of lawn chairs.

Of course, I have the previous owner to thank for creating the pond. But even if there were no pond (which would be so sad) and no fence, even with just the pine tree growing in a lawn next to the road, that bit of nature would still have the power to absorb me for moments at a time, in between occasional distractions of passing cars and pedestrians. One reason I prefer a private garden is that it grants more opportunities for being mesmerized.

So does Spring.

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The lily pond and its resident frog last September.

I remember when I first realized that “Spring Fever” is a real phenomenon, not just a colorful turn of phrase. It happened a few years after I had moved to Minnesota. One Spring, I noticed how I was feeling—the rush of giddiness, the inner blossoming—and finally put a name to it.

Here in the high desert where I grew up, the seasons transition more gently, and I don’t remember having the same intense physical response to Spring’s arrival. But that year in particular, it zapped me, and for the few days (or maybe weeks) of its birth, I walked through the streets of Saint Paul in a joyful daze, soaking up the light and warmth and reveling in the sheer fact of Spring’s existence.

This was before I became a gardener, and I remember the messiness of those walks (now I am messy so often that such experiences don’t make as much impact). The sidewalks were coated with several inches of slush from the partly melted snow, which tended to refreeze overnight, so it was crunchy early in the day and then became runny toward afternoon. My feet were sopping by the time I returned from even a brief jaunt, because there was nowhere to walk that wasn’t wet. Footprints in the slush went deep and immediately began filling with water. Careful stepping could not prevent the backsplash of both water and slush.

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My Saint Paul driveway in mid-March, 2001.

Despite the mess, or perhaps because the melted snow proved there was after all a sun, people I met smiled broadly, traded cheerful remarks, and I recall that some giggled with glee. Just as the harsh winter had brought us together, strangers ready at a moment’s notice to shovel a car out of a plowed-in parking spot or push it back onto an isolated highway in the dead of night, so too we came together in our relief and celebration of the sun’s return.

During this first April in my new digs, I treasure the memory of that Minnesotan sense of togetherness, even as I sit in my lawn chair, basking half-guilty in Boise’s earlier, gentler Spring.

Posted by on April 2, 2014 at 4:01 am, in the category Real Gardens, Shut Up and Dig.
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8 Responses to “Spring Fever”

  1. susan harris says:

    New garden in a warmer climate – supremely exciting! I look forward to many, many updates.

  2. Dee says:

    I’ve so enjoyed every warm day this week, and even though I don’t have the experience of moving to a milder climate, spring is lovely indeed. I was smiling to myself thinking about Boise being a “milder” climate. If you’re from Minnesota, yes. From my point of view it seems pretty cold and changeable, but that’s just because I live so far south. Have fun in your new digs.~~Dee

  3. Amanda Morris says:

    You are so right about being absorbed in the garden – and how wonderful to have a pond! There is something to this “spring fever,” isn’t there! How fantastic to so thoroughly enjoy your space. :)

  4. Anne Wareham says:

    Makes you understand why our long ago ancestors revered the sun.

  5. Sandra Knauf says:

    Beautiful piece – and I am in love with the top photo. Happy spring to you!

  6. Michelle says:

    There is honestly a deep thrill in finding things poking up out of the ground even when it’s still frigid at night. Then you blink and what was just a stub is suddenly completely unfurled, and boy does it roll out fast from there!

  7. Mike O says:

    reading this blog post makes me realize just how easy it is for us on the West Coast to garden to our hearts content. At worst, we have to deal with drought and water restrictions which can be very challenging as well.

  8. Thanks, all of you, for sharing the joy. Happy gardening! (whether you are in the dirt or in a lawn chair)

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