Spring Assessment


After days of pouring rain, I took myself out to the garden to do some weeding (something I do as much for my state of mind as for the state of my garden). When the soil is wet and loose, I can dislodge some of those tenacious weeds that take up so much room and nudge out the plants I'm trying to nurture. This was also a good time to assess the damage from our unusually harsh Virginia winter. I'm a little behind on that score (my neighbors have already planted their tomatoes!), but my gardening motto is, C'est jamais trop tard (it's never too late). As I moved around the beds, I was dismayed to find that a few long-nourished perennials had died. My cherished fig tree was the biggest loss, as it was just mature enough to feed me as well as the hungry birds. Next there was the lavender that has filled my closets with fragrant sachets, though I could never give it as much sunlight as it demanded. The climbing roses and the flowering vines lost yards of branches, and it was in cleaning under them along the fence that I discovered the most unexpected loss—the hawk. I found an entire wing directly beneath the cypress branch where I had last seen the young Red-tail that lived here through the winter. He had made himself conspicuous, calling out insistently every afternoon, and it was above this very spot that he last scolded me as I passed by. How could such a big, lively bird have died here? There were certainly plenty of smaller birds and mammals to prey on. Was he inadvertently poisoned, or did the severe cold affect him? Was there anything I could have done? I had grown accustomed to his fierce guardian presence above my garden. Holding the wing, I sank down onto nearby steps and found myself assessing other losses. Winter can be hard on humans, too, and several of my friends have gone through rough patches recently— illness, an unexpected move, separation, even death. In any life, there are harsh seasons that bring circumstances we cannot avoid or explain. A spring assessment is one way to acknowledge what is lost. Then, even if it takes its time, renewal arrives in the garden, bringing green to replace what has been lost, and an abundance of colorful flowers to distract us.