Such a splendid week we’ve had at Full Moon Cottage! We’ve been breathing gratitude, along with the sweet scent of geosmin, the organic compound released by active little actinomycetes as the earth reheats in spring. Like earth’s signature sachet, it evokes a million memories of gardens I’ve tended and loved since I was a child. The comforting reliable signposts assuring us that spring has arrived and is busily establishing her known rhythms has caused our enthusiasm and energy levels to rise like sap and respond by honoring the rituals this time of year calls forth: opening windows, cleaning and winnowing through closets, washing rugs and curtains, and going outside as often as possible to notice homecomings and welcome back old friends. The Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes have been winging in on great southerly winds crying out, “Here we are! Here we are!” The male birds—cardinals, chickadees, flickers, jays–are establishing territories and will be seeking mates for nesting, so I’m scattering pet hair and dryer lint, and continuing to fill the feeders. Our owls make their presence known, as do the bossy crows, and this morning, Phillip heard a robin’s song. The river’s coat of ice is melting away. A lack of winter snow has caused the water level to be quite low this year, so we’re hoping for rains, but just to see the water sparkle in sunlight touches and begins to thaw every frozen particle lodged in our winter hearts. The long months of chilled confinement have ended; winter’s dark and snarled mind knots loosen and dissolve, allowing our spirits to flow. We’ve been laughing more this week. It’s too soon to get into the gardens, but at least I can see them again, and am trying to locate the very detailed list I made last autumn of all the uprooting, dividing, and replanting I had planned for this spring. Of course, first, we have to wait and see who did, and who did not, survive the bitter cold and lack of adequate snow cover we experienced until late winter. Ever hopeful.
I remember my first garden, when I was about eight, and the deep joy I felt planting my bachelor buttons, moss roses, zinnias, and cosmos. Every morning, for weeks, I dashed from bed to garden, pajama-clothed and barefoot—a habit that endures—to examine the earth for signs of green life. I weeded and watered and spent most of that summer immersed in “my” garden, as I have ever since. Daddy had encouraged this, utterly, and supported my dreams of color and blossom; Mama didn’t garden, but supported everything that gave me joy. I took it for granted that everyone had parents who so lovingly tended their dreams. Until I can grab a rake and trowel and get going this spring, my garden jones is satisfied at school, where, led by our intrepid team of visiting Master Gardeners, we’ve spent a few weeks planning, and are now planting seeds for this year’s garden. The little pots will sit in long trays on counters in the school’s basement, warmed by grow lights and watered from the bottom. It gladdens my heart to see how joyfully and naturally the children connect with these activities. They cannot always name the steps or tools involved in gardening, or even evidence familiarity with the resulting food, but they so merrily dig into buckets of soil and so tenderly plant seeds in tiny, plastic earth-filled homes. I think there’s nothing so healing, creative, or natural as gardening.
The children’s spirits have been thawing, too, and warmer days have increased their energy, and the need for its release and creative expression. Their city skyline artwork turned out beautifully. I was stopped in my tracks, though, when more than one child asked where in their skyline the jail should be represented, or a child showed me his city and identified a building as “the prison.” Once again, I was reminded that the familial, reliable, and seasonal rhythms in which I have always taken comfort and joy are very different from those circumscribing the lives of many of my students. Sometimes their behavior is angry and puzzling, and then comments like these reveal the missing pieces, and my heart breaks open, creating spaces for new seeds of understanding to be planted.
Phillip and I talk, often, of our students and the ways we might touch their spirits and hearts, and give them hope, or a bit of light to companion their journeys. It’s not likely they’ll remember us, but will they remember that a teacher once told them how special, and precious, and gifted they are? When they doubt their purpose, or lose their way, or struggle to make the right choice, will they feel rooted in courage and reach for a light-filled path? Breathing in the wonders and invitations of spring, I’m reminded that we are all stewards of each other as well as of the earth, and that how we prepare, nurture, and tend one another’s spirits is our calling as humans and, certainly, as teachers. Not everyone was gifted with present and loving parents who cultivated their gifts and wonder from the beginning, and we all have dark spaces that can be filled with self-doubt and self-loathing, or planted with promise and loved into bloom. We may never see the amazing blossoms and glorious results we have helped create, never be identified as one of the gardeners, but we must, over and over, plant the seeds of possibility, expectation, and affirmation, and shower them with love. Ever hopeful; gardeners, all.