Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In Praise of Spring Bulbs

As of last week, I've already made one important landscaping decision even though we haven't built our house yet: I will definitely be planting some spring-blooming bulbs. I came to this decision in one of those unheralded moments that's a lot like realizing that you love your best guy friend who's been there all along, cheering you up after every breakup, only you didn't know it until that moment.

This all started two Sundays ago, when I noticed daffodil blooms emerging from the soil by the church entrance, the first I've seen this year. My heart instantly lightened because it was a visible sign that spring really is coming, one I instantly felt had been missing. Then last week, when I was outside during one of the first sunny days we'd had in what seemed like months, looking for picture worthy signs of spring for this blog, all I could find were tree buds because--and I had never noticed this before--there are no bulb plants here at the parents-in-law's farmhouse. The yard suddenly seemed empty and bare without them.
That's when I realized how much a part of my life bulb plants have been and how much I love and lean on them.

I see now that I have fond memories of bulb blooms from way back. When my granny built the house in which I grew up, she planted bulbs that, 60 untended years later, were still blooming. Daffodils and hyacinths sprang up every year of my childhood with zero attention from the current generation. They were an amazement to me, so effortlessly beautiful and indomitable, a yearly reminder of the work and hopes of generations past. When I planned my future wedding, as girls are sometimes wont to do, daffodils were the flowers.

Then, when I bought my first house, I discovered it came with purple crocuses. My second house had them, too, as well as daffodils and pink hyacinth and red tulips. In both cases, they were a belated purchasing bonus, planted by people I didn't know but whom I appreciated for leaving me these colorful surprises. I had flowers by grace, which was a welcome thing because I've never been a good gardener, indoors or out.

What I learned about myself standing there in the yard was how very much I have enjoyed the fruit of those blind bulbs that just came with the territory in past years of my life. I began to anticipate their blooming and savor their seasons. When I would go outside, even if just in passing from the house to the car, they were there to cheer me, to let me know that winter was just about over even when it didn't feel as if it was, and to remind me of the life that's stored in the soil--all at a dark time when the cold and captivity of winter had begun to weigh heavily. Like nothing else I know, those bud heads pushing determinedly up through the cold dirt transform cabin-fever impatience into contented certainty that the wideness and warmth of spring is coming. Their jaunty presence makes it easier to wait. Faith by sight, I suppose.

So for most of the last fifteen years, I've had bulb flowers to lift my spirits at winter's end, without ever understanding how meaningful those accidental gifts were to me. I lucked into them and took them for granted. Now that my eyes have been opened to their dependable charms, I don't want to imagine a life without these faithful harbingers of spring. This accidental relationship will become intentional just as soon as I have ground of my own in which to plant them.

Surely even a black thumb like me can grow some bulbs. They're easy. And isn't that one of the other things to love about bulbs? All they ask is that you get them into the ground right side up. They take it from there.
They're my kind of plants--effortlessly beautiful, yes, but also beautifully effortless. And like the best relationships, they're self-nurturing and resilient.

I'll have bulbs blooming in my life again someday, but this time I will have planted them myself as a nod to my past and a gesture toward the future. They may still be blooming and bringing renewing cheer long after I'm gone.

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