Weeping crab cascades
Full skirt of blossoms swirling
Warm air caresses.
The grass is so green
Grey skies again and again
Maple buds redden
Furry knobs unfurling leaves
Bare branches still swirl.
Yes, all day today, outside! The forecast was for off and on clouds and some rain, but we woke to a completely clear blue sky. I carried the deck furniture up from the basement of the barn and we had our morning cappuccino sitting in hot sun. It snowed yesterday, so this was an unexpected treat.
Then I went for the first bike ride of the season, and as soon as I got home, David and I went for what Eric and I, years ago, coined a hikette — more than a walk, less than a hike. We drove to the top of Blake’s Hill Road and walked on Mountain Road, an old woods road that runs just north of the small peak, Saddleback Mountain. From Mountain Road, we got to the trail that took us to the summit of Saddleback, where a vein of marble cuts across the granite outcroppings, and other hikers have created cairns that look like a band of motionless people among the grass and rocks as you come around the last corner of the trail. We had a snack on the ledges overlooking the White Mountains to the north, then hiked home.
It did cloud up and start to rain a bit, but not enough to keep me out of the yard. I cleaned up the wood pile, broke dead stalks off perennials, and looked at my spinach and radish and pea sprouts, the peas making a sheen of green along the line of the fence.
Now I’m on the porch, writing my first blog post of the spring outdoors. The buds on the maple are thick and fuzzy and red. The geese who come into the farm pond across the street in the evenings just honked along their descent. It’s warm enough to sit out here with only a light jacket. This feels magical. An entire day outside, when yesterday it snowed.
Orchid blooms again
An annual April treat
Garden pride inside.
A determined robin is singing outside, the notes coming through the windows that look out on another gray day. “April is the cruelest month,” has come to mind often in the last 24 hours. I’d envisioned these few days off around Passover as sunny and warm, days in the yard gardening, sitting in the sun drinking coffee, gathering with friends for a relaxed Passover celebration.
I woke up to a churning gut and head yesterday, Erev Pesach, the day before the beginning of Passover at sundown. It was cloudy and cold and windy, making work outside uncomfortable. With cooking to do for the seder last night, I turned to inside work and tried to focus my attention on making recipes out of Joyce Goldstein’s Cucina Ebraica, a wonderful collection of Italian Jewish recipes.
But the dozens of wheels floating in the air above my head (many thanks to David for this right-on image) just keep whirring, nothing touching down and able to get traction. When I finally sat down to have some lunch, I found tears more than anything else coming up, and when I looked behind the churning and preoccupation that I was somehow “dithering away” this precious time off, I found grief. As I often do when I look behind whatever is bothering me.
There, as soon as I recognized it, were all the years of Passover seders with Eric, and the five Passovers he’s missed since he died. Grief is so sneaky and unpredicable — abating for months at a time, anniversaries of numerous events going by smoothly one year, then slamming me with a “ball to the head” (and thanks to Adrienne for that right-on image) the next year.
Mostly yesterday I keep seeing Eric the last Passover he was alive. He’d been diagnosed with the metastatic cancer by then, and we’d missed the family seder in Connecticut, and had no capacity for the big seder with friends we’d planned for that weekend. Eric was just home from the hospital on Saturday, and we had a small seder — Eric, Adrienne and Matt, and Sam and Rachel, his then girlfriend, and me. Eric sat at the head of the table and told stories about Passover, about the mitzvah of retelling the story every year of the Jew’s liberation from slavery in Egypt, in the same order, “seder” in Hebrew.
It was one of the last times Eric was up at the table, eating with us. His illness was vicious and swift. The next year his mother and I skipped Passover all together, unable to imagine the holiday without him,
Now I’m trying to create new traditions, and now there’s a grandson who’ll soon be old enough to start learning Passover stories. Last night the seder with friends was lovely — a lively reading of the haggadah, the Passover story, friendly discussions and reconnections, delicious food. Today I’ll go out in the grey and pull the gardening wheel out of the sky and force it onto the ground, getting some traction with earth and compost and the first seeds breaking through the soil.
Tonight David and I have decided to read each other poems as our own, second night seder. Folding up one set of traditions, we’re unfolding new ones.
I think I’ll read the begining of T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.”
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Image courtesy of http://thesmartlyanonymous.com/
Peas spinach radish
Seeds popping first double green
So much more in store.
Though it felt like winter today — grey skies, cold air, winter chill wind — there were delightful reminders that spring really is here. Carol and Mary and I had spent yesterday evening and last night together, trying to solve the problems of the world connected to the disconnect of violence against women. We all run statewide domestic and sexual violence coalitions, so we have a lot in common, we are all exhausted and exhilarated by our jobs, and we have so much to talk about whenever we get together we can hardly stop long enough to get to bed and get some sleep.
This morning we got up and started talking again. We went for a walk around Salem, Massachusetts where Mary lives, talking the whole time. Salem is a lovely, seaside town, with a famous witch history and centuries-old colonial houses crowded on narrow streets. In spite of the cold, we saw early blooms, trees holding buds like pearls, about-to-burst magnolias and outdoor seating areas just beginning to look like they might be habitable again some day.
We were talking about tough stuff — the ridiculous feuding in different factions of the movement to end violence against women which feels like junior high drama, the almost total dysfunction of the criminal justice system in supporting victims and holding offenders accountable, the very scary budgetary issues everyone is facing, the way our jobs take over our lives so that we can barely find time to adequately feed ourselves. Literally. But as we walked and talked we saw gardens and beautiful old houses, hard wind pushing the Atlantic up over the rocks and all those tight buds on trees starting to loosen up. We stopped and asked a woman trimming a wisteria vine about an abandoned house and got a 20 minute mini-lecture on the history of Salem, because she can trace back seven great-grandfathers to the founders of the city.
Hard work, cold wind, budding tulips and good friends. A good day.