No doubt about it, spring is on its way. No matter the frigid mornings, the sere landscapes, the hungry birds and deer, the time of growth and renewal is inevitable, is at hand. I can tell by the sunlight that hits my eyelids from our east-facing window before the alarm rings at seven; from the fact that the hens are awake when I greet them with a pan of hot milk for their breakfast; from the honey-colored light that hits the side of the garage in the late afternoon. Spring is coming, and there's not a thing I can do about it.
More and more, I find spring a scary time. I'm not the first to feel this way either--you remember what T.S. Eliot said about April. And Stravinsky's Rite of Spring makes my hair stand on end whenever I hear it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1tn7WJ9lRc&list=PL8B572976288776C9
As people around here greet each other with "have you noticed how light it is at five?" I feel a desire to hold things back, to slow the march of the year a bit. Yes, I'm glad the days are longer. Yes, it's wonderful that when I walk the dogs in the front field I can actually feel the sun. But please, let this time of reprieve, when the days are longer and the sun is warmer but nothing as yet is happening out there, last a little longer.
Because, the minute it starts happening, I'm going to have to be out there dealing with it. Pruning the apple trees, putting down mulch, planting spinach in the snow, and then weeding, weeding, weeding (everybody knows that early weeding saves much labor in the hot months). This to be followed by more planting, more weeding, and the endless cycle of harvesting, preserving and fertilizing that will get us into fall and through the next winter. Just thinking about it makes me want to take a nap.
I love this cold weather respite. I rejoice in going down to the basement freezer and pulling out the night's ration of frozen broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, chard, tomato sauce, or eggplant that I put by last summer. Getting supper on the table is a snap in winter. But it took endless hours at the sink and stove to wash and parboil and cool and pack and label and freeze those veggies, and as I contemplate the coming spring and summer I wonder, do I have it in me to do it again?
With some breaks for urban living, I've been going through this cycle since the mid 1970s. How much longer can I keep up the illusion of (relative) self-sufficiency? How much longer will the taste of those tender first salads-- that "veal" spinach and lettuce as a friend used to call it--sustain my determination to live close to the earth?
The answer is, as long as I'm able. I imagine myself growing thinner (at last!) and shorter (alas!), white hair pulled back into a bun, creeping around my vegetable beds, picking the evening's meal with my gnarled hands, toddling inside while two old dogs snuffle at my feet, going from sink to stove with slow, deliberate steps.
Really, that's not a bad vision of the future at all. So I guess I'll keep on growing things as long as my fingers can hold the pruning shears and my back can bend to push tiny seeds into the moist soil. But meanwhile, I intend to squeeze every minute of my winter reprieve and pretend that the eerie drumbeats of approaching spring are still a long way away.