I sat on the front steps, pavement warm against my feet. The grass needed its first mowing of the year, green only in patches, but beginning to grow. The scent of daffodils and hyacinths wafted around me, speaking happiness to my back brain. I love spring flowers. I looked down the bed of flowers next to the house. I planted most of them myself. I did not plant the weeds. Those showed up without permission. But this early in the season the flowers are blooming and the weeds have barely started to grow. Another reason to love Spring.
I missed Spring last year. I spent April in my basement office banging a text file and loose illustrations into a book in only four weeks. To add to the difficulty, I was still learning how to use InDesign. It was trial by fire. When I had thoughts to spare from work and kids, they mostly dwelt on how terrified I was that I’d make a mistake and ruin everything. I did make mistakes. Often. But I fixed them and we met our deadline. Sometime in May I emerged from my daze to discover that the daffodils had bloomed and died while I was busy. I had missed my favorite month for being outdoors. I grieved a little before running headlong into a summer which contained two book releases and two major conventions. When I reached Fall I planned to make the next Spring different.
I got up off the steps and walked to look at my flowers. I considered sitting down and weeding. But I found that I preferred to look and think, to see it all rather than focusing on a small patch. I considered the grass impinging on the walkway and the layer of debris which drifted up against it. When I clean it off, the cement underneath will be darker, stained by months of contact with the dirt. If I clean it off. I plan to do it, but I plan to do many garden projects which get pushed aside. No matter how well I plan, things change and the plans must change to accommodate. I intended for April, and particularly the week of Spring break, to be a quiet month, a lull in the business schedule. Instead I arrived with my head crammed full of tasks to track. Each day with its own extensive list of chores written in small handwriting to make sure everything can fit on the same page.
I walked across the lawn to the flower bed circling the baby oak tree. The tree is not a happy one. Each year it leafs out optimistically in shades of green, but this species of oak wants more iron than our soil provides. The tree must draw back nutrients to keep the core alive. The leaves fade to yellow-orange and crisp around the edges. Year after year the oak continues to struggle, trying to grow without having the necessary nutrients to truly flourish. Howard and I talk about cutting it down and planting something else, but we haven’t done it yet. My writing has felt like that oak this past two months. I want to write lush, leafy prose which will shade and inspire. Such leaves nourish the tree from which they spring. Instead everything I write has felt yellow-orange with crispy edges. It is all I can do. All my reserves have been drawn into my core to do the necessary work and to keep our family running.
At the base of the oak a tulip was blooming. It was one of the bulbs I hid in the ground last Fall. A gift to myself. Grass was growing around it thickly. I wanted to sit and pull the grass out. I wanted to prune back the grapes. I wanted to trim back the grass and clear the walkway. I wanted to do these and dozens of other gardening tasks. These things matter to me, but not to anyone else. If I do them it is for my own satisfaction. I softly touched the side of the tulip and wondered when personal satisfaction became insufficient reason to do a thing. When did I prioritize small happiness out of my life. It is a short term lack. Only a month or two, but already I can feel it. I can see it in my yellow-orange leaves. Already I knew that the garden hour and the tulip fed me. My next leaf would be more green.
The chore list is thinner than it was. I’m finding my way to the ends of tasks. But the solution is not in the finishing of tasks. Joy is found in the balancing of hours and days. Each needs to contain a mix of the different parts of me. My life needs to have work, ambition, peace, and contentment all in rotation. I’m getting closer I think. This year is better than last, despite the rescheduling.