Thursday, February 10, 2011


Last Wednesday I stood in the middle of winter and took a deep sigh. We’ve made it half way. Ground Hog’s Day. He was kind to us this year promising a quick arrival of spring. By East Coast standards spring is already here. Daffodils and crocuses in bloom, flocks of robins on the lawn. I even heard frogs on that one really warm wet day last week.
When I was depositing my checks at the bank on Imbolc, the beautiful ancient holiday that marks the half way point between winter solstice and spring equinox, the teller asked. “ How are you doing today?”
I know she probably meant nothing by it, but in my heart I was celebrating Imbolc. It put a little bounce in my step that had been missing for weeks. A little spring.
“ I’m doing well, there is some sun in the sky today,” I said.
I guess she was expecting a simple flat “Fine.” Something she didn’t need to respond to. She craned her head to look out the window to see if the sun was really out. She was so deep in the recesses of the room she could only see a corner of the sky, a cloudy corner.
“ It seems cold though; is it going to snow?”
“ I don’t think it will snow.”
“ I like snow,” she confessed.
“I like snow, too.”
“ Where are you from?” She asked. It was strange for a teller to become so inquisitive. But I have to admit I was very inquisitive about where she was from, too. Her exotic unclassifiable beauty made me curious, as did her name, a strange hybrid of Hindu, Arabic and Russian with way too many letters so that it stretched the whole length of her name tag.
“ Wisconsin,” I said as if I had just stepped off the boat, I was feeling a need to appear a bit exotic myself.
“ Oh, that’s in the middle of the country,” she was drawing a comparison. “ I come from the middle of Asia. Kyrgyzstan.” Now that sounds much more exotic than the Midwest, but by her estimation it was the same. “It is very cold and snowy in the winter there,” she said with a nostalgia strange for someone I am guessing is only 20 years old. Then she added with languorous delight, “ And hot in the summer.”
I smiled at her delight in these extremes, “ That’s how it is where I come from, too.”
She felt finally she had an ally. “It is always spring here,” her voice slumped as if in defeat, as if trapped in Purgatory.
“It is always spring here,” I had to agree.
We finished our transaction and wished each other a good day and another snow storm, las if we were wishing each other good luck with a lotto ticket.
I doubt we’ll have more snow, though there is a possibility. Just as it is possible to have a sunny 60° week this time of year. We linger in possibilities forever it seems, yet slowly nudging forward. So I always celebrate Imbolc, or Candlemas or St. Brigid’s if you’re Catholic, because it’s a reminder of the gentle nudge forward toward real spring, flower-bloated, pollen-clogged real spring.
Actually I’m glad we still have half of winter to endure. There are some books I still want to read. Not to mention a green house, toppled like a house of cards by flood waters, that needs to be righted. There is still plenty of mulching and pruning to do. And seed orders to make. It’s going to take some time and ambition.
Luckily it is the Chinese Year of the Rabbit which promises ambition along with good taste and financial luck. But rabbits, it’s hard to feel lucky about rabbits. They are already chewing down the tops of all the tulips in one garden I maintain. Actually it doesn’t matter if it is a dragon year or a dog year, the rabbits, hungry for something new, start chewing the tops off the emerging tulips about now every year. What I wouldn’t do for a snow cover to keep them at bay a little longer. Of course that would only make them more voracious. The worst part is I never see them, they sneak in and out during the shadowy dawn. All the natural irritants I apply won’t keep them away. I encourage the neighbors cat to wander the garden, but he seems rather ineffectual.
One of my colleagues dismissed my complaints, “They’re part of the natural order.”
I was irritable that day so all I could respond was, “There is nothing natural about that garden.” In a way it’s true. Gardens are a contrivances. Tulips hail from far off places like Kyrgyzstan. As I walked away from him I wondered if he killed slugs. There is nothing smugger than a “Green” gardener.
Now I like rabbits, bunnies if you will. I was born on Easter, and was my mother’s “ Little Easter Bunny” for many years. I have an affinity for bunnies. I’m a Chinese dog, they’re my natural allies. But when they start messing with my garden...
Of course this is a lot of bravado. Last summer Michael found a nest of bunnies in our vegetable patch. Neither one of us had the heart to kill them to avoid the ensuing carnage, or is that green-age, when they left the nest and lived off our labors. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for us, they all died before ever leaving the nest. Had the mother been nabbed by coyotes or an owl? We actually contemplated saving the last one and nursing it on. I think Michael had braising in mind.
But I don’t think he could have done it. There was some magical adorability about them making it impossible. Rabbits figure in many cultures as magical beings, tricksters, Bugs Bunny is a very ancient archetype so it seems. They bring luck and fecundity. In the far east they are believed to live on the moon. As burrowers they are said to bring messages from the Underworld. As Thumper, Peter or Roger they are memorable characters of our culture.
But that doesn’t stop the damage they’re doing to my tulips. And reclassifying them so that they’re no longer rodents but lagomorphs, doesn’t make them any less a pest. I’m trying to be expansive. To share the garden with the rabbits. I plant more salvias and alliums as deterrents around things they love like asters and hebes. Who would think they’d eat hebes?
But still I can’t help but let a “damn rabbits” out of my mouth at least once a week. But I’m not alone.
“Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall.”