Sunday, January 30, 2011
Many years ago my friend, Joyce Castleberry showed me how to do this, as she's shown me so very many things that mark the seasons and punctuate life with grace. Not that it's difficult; anyone could order the bulbs and position them in rinsed gravel (or marbles or river stones or sand - or anything that doesn't decompose, but allows water to nourish the roots of the bulbs while holding the bulb itself high enough to keep it from rotting away). But here's the hard part --- just when the idea of Spring itself seems the most unlikely possibility, you have to remember to do it.
And, if you're going to "do it" on a big scale, you'll need to give over a whole afternoon to the task. In fact, I hadn't meant to, but I gave two afternoons to the exercise. This year I remembered to get on the Internet and order bulbs right after Christmas. I was ambitious; as long as we're in for a penny, I must have figured. And the week before last, they arrived; dozens and dozens of them, stored in net bags and packed in a massive brown cardboard carton. But last weekend, after the second (or is it the third - or the eighth) of the January blizzards, the hardware store couldn't get to their sacks of gravel because eight feet of plowed snow blocked the doors to their shed.
I'm not sure I was right in my concerns, but I feared our bulbs might rot, waiting a week in the warmth of the barn - so facing no gravel, I poked toothpicks into their rigid little bodies and suspended them all over dozens of bowls and cups and vases and glasses of water, their bulb-bottoms just barely submerged; and I placed them near windows and French doors, all over the barn. When Frank and I came back to DogWood on Thursday night, after just four days in the city, we found that roots had all grown inches and bright green stalks had begun to emerge from the fat little bulbs, full of optimism; a kind of stubborn, foolish idea that in spite of everything you can see, nature is still capable of delivering on a promise.
We continue to live in the barn, a year and a half after we moved out of the house to make way for the house renovation that was supposed to take three months, after a pipe burst. But as we opened the walls and floors and to our dismay, found that we needed to review every pipe and wire, it seemed that every possible mechanical and operational device in our 1830's house had to be repaired, replaced or eliminated altogether. And putting it back in a way that looked just as an 1830's house might have looked, was challenging. And not a fast job.
But now, at long last, the wallpaper is nearly done upstairs and we're almost ready to move our furniture back to that floor, dressed and ready with closets it hasn't found a way to accommodate in more than a hundred and eighty years. Downstairs, the kitchen is finally beginning to show signs of the more workable, charming - but most of all - safe -- kitchen it will become. Only the fireplace in the dining room will need some attention after that. And then all the floors downstairs will get sanded and painted, the walls will get fresh coats of paint, and by Spring, Frank and I will get to go home.
Among our domestic tasks this weekend, we bought a kitchen sink. Simple and white. No airs. Just a nice, clean, fresh, plain sink. And since it made us think about dish-racks and colanders and our dear old Wedgwood plates, we ducked into the smaller barn to look at our stored cache of pots and pans, dishes and linens. We opened boxes and poked around, noting the things that will go back to the house, and separating the things that have served us well, but will make their way to the little shop that benefits the work of the Congregational Church. It was like shopping in our own personal store, looking at things we'd not seen in more than a year, and falling in love with them all over again. It was actually kind of thrilling. Like getting the taste of better things to come, knowing they were ours, all along. So there we were, looking forward. Not so unlike the Paper-whites, putting out their first green promise of Spring.