Sprout

Sleeping bud snug
in papery womb.
White dream­er in the shadows.

In still­ness you doze
through wars and ten­der life­times,
soft as unformed bone.

Then, one unknown instant,
the moon mouths your name;
her ancient breath

the warm sig­nal
that stirs
your yel­low heart.

Slowly you awak­en and rise
from the silent place
that was your life, that was your season,

and tear your­self in two;
pale nub green­ing
at the mere idea of a sun.

— Adra Fisher

A few weeks ago, the daf­fodil bulbs along my back fence line pushed their oval fin­ger­tips through the soil, an always-thrilling sight even after 30-plus years of gar­den­ing. The tem­per­a­tures were frigid and the soil sur­face brit­tle, but these hardy spring bulbs were undeterred.

The nat­ur­al world nev­er ceas­es to inspire and delight if we’ll only take time to notice it.

Of the four dis­tinct sea­sons we enjoy in Clark County, spring is by far the most uplift­ing: win­ter tends to over­stay its wel­come, sum­mer can be oppres­sive­ly humid, and flam­boy­ant fall is the final hur­rah before our annu­al polar plunge into ear­ly-evening darkness.

Springtime may be mer­cu­r­ial and stormy, but it’s the only sea­son that offers a heart­en­ing sense of renewal.

While our cal­en­dars claim spring doesn’t arrive offi­cial­ly until March, it starts for me the sec­ond I spot sprouts emerg­ing from beneath their win­ter blan­kets of gar­den debris. Never mind that the tele­vi­sion weath­er folks squawk about snow and ice through April — daf­fodils don’t watch tv, which is anoth­er rea­son to revere them and won­der who, real­ly, is the high­er form of life.

Every year I mark the begin­ning of spring by a series of joy­ous events: the emer­gence of spring foliage and blooms (natch), the first raspy “cong-a-REEEof the Red-winged Blackbird, the tease of a few 60-degree days, and the pub­lic library’s seed give­away. Once the Burns Avenue lawn across from the library bursts into its annu­al sea of laven­der cro­cus blooms, I’ll con­sid­er the sea­son to be in full glo­ri­ous swing. (Note: This short-lived spring spec­ta­cle is start­ing now and is not to be missed.)

How to cel­e­brate? That’s up to you; we all have our pre­ferred meth­ods. Mine involves sort­ing through bags of refrig­er­at­ed seed pack­ets and star­ing out win­dows. There is also a lot of wan­der­ing the yard in my bathrobe or decades-old loungewear — or both, depend­ing on the hour, tem­per­a­ture, and my over­all mood.

Because the scene can change quick­ly and I don’t want to miss any­thing, vig­i­lance is required. On inclement-weath­er days, binoc­u­lars allow land­scape scout­ing from the com­fort of my couch. If you’ve nev­er stud­ied trees or plants with binoc­u­lars, I high­ly rec­om­mend it. Just be care­ful not to creep out your neighbors.

On one recent yard patrol, I noticed green­ing mounds of win­ter cress, new growth on my grand­moth­ers’ heir­loom cowslip and iris, plus tiny blue-green cat­mint leaves that make the neigh­bor­hood cats more than a lit­tle wacky on the junk. (It’s only February and already they are writhing ecsta­t­i­cal­ly out there … thank good­ness I didn’t plant actu­al cat­nip, their pur­port­ed drug of choice.)

As much as there is to see above ground, even more activ­i­ty is tak­ing place at the soil line. Perhaps you’ve noticed the spring pla­toons of American Robins stand­ing around in the grass.  These per­cep­tive birds aren’t imi­tat­ing stat­ues, they’re hunt­ing. The win­ter berry sup­ply deplet­ed, they’re on to the next course — earth­worms and soil arthro­pods. Standing stock-still in the lawn helps them bet­ter see the slight­est move­ment of even the tini­est prey.

Meanwhile, inch­es below the soil sur­face churns a diverse uni­verse of insects and microbes that makes our own lives pos­si­ble. These tire­less crit­ters’ activ­i­ties and even­tu­al dead bod­ies cre­ate the actu­al soil nec­es­sary to sup­port plant life.

I will nev­er for­get learn­ing many years ago in botany class that plants can live with­out us, but we can’t live with­out plants. This rev­e­la­to­ry state­ment caused a seis­mic shift in my con­scious­ness: Gardening is not some­thing one does to the earth, it is under­tak­en in hum­ble col­lab­o­ra­tion with it.

Today, the door to my gar­den shed bears a plaque that I have dis­played in my gar­dens since 1992. Its inscrip­tion, para­phrased from an 1854 speech attrib­uted to Native American Chief Seattle, reads: “Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth.” Every time I retrieve a tool or sur­vey my gar­den, I see these words and am remind­ed of my place on this amaz­ing — and boun­ti­ful — planet.

This year, as spring blooms before our win­ter-weary eyes, let’s see it for the mir­a­cle it tru­ly is. Let’s appre­ci­ate our unique place in this astound­ing nat­ur­al world and treat it with the care and respect it deserves.

In these fraught times of pan­demics, cli­mate change, and polit­i­cal polar­iza­tion, we’ve man­aged to sur­vive anoth­er win­ter. Daffodils are shoot­ing sky­ward and cro­cus­es are in bloom. Before long, we’ll be sur­round­ed by the tech­ni­col­or beau­ty of yet anoth­er Kentucky spring.

I can’t imag­ine a bet­ter rea­son to celebrate.

Watercolor & acrylic painting by Adra Fisher
Watercolor & acrylic paint­ing by Adra Fisher (click to enlarge) 

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    Adra Fisher grew up in Winchester, moved away in her ear­ly 20s and returned a quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry lat­er. She enjoys all types of art and encour­ag­ing oth­ers to live creatively.