This is the first spring I truly appreciate since my father died over a year ago. I always liked seeing nature in action but this year it’s making me pause, look, smell, and just stand there in awe. I don’t remember ever taking the time to enjoy spring. I think it’s because my father is sending me signs through nature.
I’m hardly a horticulturist but I do enjoy planting flowers, bulbs, bushes, and trees. It’s usually a hit and miss for me even though I research first. My first spring encounter was the hyacinth bulbs that seemed to bloom overnight. They are in the front of our house so I only noticed after an errand. I came out of my car, saw the purple, and trotted toward them. The fragrance was wonderful. I bent down and took a deep whiff and I mean I inhaled it like I haven’t before. Then I just stood there, looked and started thinking. Planted from bulbs, every year these flowers come back and multiply. The first flowers I see are purple. You know, the favorite color my father and I share.
I purchased a small lavender plant for my father’s memorial service last year. Lavender is supposed to be a soothing plant. I’ve never had one before. I put it in a planter outside and it just took off blooming. It smelled wonderful and I even cut some to dry. I left it outside during the winter not knowing if it would come back. A few days ago, I looked and sure enough there are little green leaves starting again. After some research, all I have to do is cut it back, leave it alone, and watch it grow. Every time I go outside, I look at the plant. I’m convinced it’s growing back just because I smile at it.
Tulips have got to be the easiest flower to plant and grow. Just put the bulbs in the ground and enjoy year after year which is why I’ve had them for years. My father planted tulip bulbs when he lived in New York. I remember years ago I had called him and he was so angry with the squirrels that gotten into his tulip bulbs. I tried not to laugh but I had to. “I’ve never had problems with that, Pop.” Words that would haunt me.
I haven’t had problems with squirrels and tulip bulbs until I moved into this house. I planted purple bulbs in the front around two trees and every year squirrels get into a few – just enough to upset the symmetry and my nerves. I add more bulbs and the squirrels feast on a few more.
Last fall I decided to plant tulip bulbs in the backyard around two trees – for my father and me. I put a little German engineering effort into it too. I measured the circumference so the bulbs would be an almost perfect circle and dug a little ditch. I even decided to change up my purple obsession by alternating the purple bulbs with white and pink. I took pride in my effort.
And then, the curse of the squirrels. Winter was approaching and the squirrels went on a grocery run around the trees in the backyard. One had the nerve to sit up and look at me with a tulip bulb in its mouth. I couldn’t get angry. I just started laughing and swearing a bit but mostly laughing. All I could think of saying was, “You got me, Pop.” The first tulip to bloom in my circle engineered by nature was purple. Thanks, Pop.
We share the planet in all seasons. Even when someone we love dies, the seasons go on. This first year has been difficult for me but I’ve learned from it. I stop and smell the flowers. I chuckle at the squirrels. I smile at the birds. Sometimes, I even talk to them but not so loud so that the neighbors can hear. I get it now. Spring.
My healing journey continues. Join me. Bring some extra tulip bulbs. You know the color.
(Henry Alfred Rudolph. Born April 2, 1930. Died March 2, 2015.)
Column by Linda R. Jones