Saturday, March 19, 2016

In the Presence of Tulips

I've gotten spoiled by the balmy 70 and 80 degree days. But now, the temperature has slid downward, and it's 52 degrees, nippy in the shade. Here we are on the cusp of spring, and we have moved into sweater weather.

I'd gotten complacent, too eager to get an early start in the garden. I had imagined French lavender in the trellis beds, and when I saw plants at the market, all of those fragrant tendrils waving in the air, I knew it was Fate. I lifted a pot and set it in my cart.

Had I forgotten that March is a notoriously fickle month? I checked the forecast. Sure enough, a cool spell was on the way, but I couldn't resist buying a pot. In past gardens, I'd had great success with French lavender. I imagined digging a hole, adding a bit of sand. Then my fantasy skipped forward, and I could see pollinators humming around the tall purple stalks. I recklessly put another lavender pot into my cart, as if my desire for a garden was so potent, it would miraculously hold warm temperatures in place. Not forever, of course, just until April 15th.

For all of its hope and beauty, early spring has a raw edge, one that shows us how far we are lagging behind. I see a thousand projects that need tending. The raised beds are rotting. The soil needs turning, along with a sprinkling of 10-10-10 fertilizer. 

To discourage weeds, I can place newspaper over the clean beds. But when the weather was balmy, I didn't complete these chores. No, I was too busy making to-do lists. I spent warm, sunny afternoons at the garden center, looking at cold weather crops (well, at least I didn't buy tomatoes).  

I'd sit at the kitchen table and draw diagrams, and within seconds, I could see a cottage garden, one that was filled with herbs, flowers, and vegetables. And what about a butterfly garden? 

Nothing in the yard was really blooming except for a few naturalized daffodils, which I treasured. Why not dream?

Cut flowers were bought because the soul craved living, breathing colors. I never apologize. Show me a life that has hydrangeas and tulips, and I'll show you a life that has joy, even if it's fleeting--or should I say especially because it's fleeting. 

Few people are complacent in the presence of tulips.

My mother was a child of the Great Depression, and she knew that life could, and would, change in a heartbeat. She always warned against complacency. It's easy to get hoodwinked by pleasing days, but even if you are, the crime is small. The changing weather is a gentle reminder to not take anything for granted. And a reminder to bring flower pots inside.

The hummingbird feeder needs to come inside too. It will be cleaned and left to dry, brought out again on a warmer day. (In my neck of the woods, it's recommended to set out hummingbird feeders by the end of February. I didn't have the heart to do it until mid-March. I haven't seen any hummers, by the way.)

In some ways, this spring is different, as if I am seeing it for the first time--not a literal seeing, but a philosophical viewing of my place in the world. I have no way of knowing how long I will stay on this magical hilltop, but I'm keenly aware that each moment is a gift.
Sometimes, though, when the mercury climbs to 82, and I'm wearing a summery dress, I can't help but invent an impossible future, one that is filled with sunny days and pink tulips. Like most gardeners, I hope for a long stretch of planting weather, not too warm, not too chilly, enough time to prepare and fill the beds--before the boiling hot summer begins, before weeds engulf my hilltop. But the future will unfold as it will, directed by a hand that is all-knowing. 

My mother has a cure for complacency. The lesson is to enjoy warm (but unseasonable) days, but to really and truly enjoy them. It's important to stop thinking and planning and step inside the moment. Know that the moment will pass, because that is the nature of time. It's here, then it's gone, quicker than a hummingbird. But even though you have been still, still as a listening deer, you have not wasted a second. 

Mama's Grace Notes:
* Buy a notebook (scrap paper or a napkin will do).
*Go outside or stand in front of a window.
*What catches your eye?
* Jot down what you see and how it makes you feel.

Shared at:
Amaze Me Monday
Metamorphosis Monday
Tweak It Tuesday
The Scoop


  1. I really love this post and your mama's thoughts. Truer words could not be spoken about March. Earlier this week it was in the 80s here and now it's nippy with the heater running.

  2. I have tulips at my new home that are about to bud. I'm dying to see what color they are! Happy Spring :)

    1. We have a clump of volunteer tulips--how in the world did they last? (My bulbs always get eaten by critters.) It's exciting!

  3. My garden space is looking the same. I have been planning, but need to get to work.

  4. Yes, we had been having 90+ days, complaining about the heat, now this weekend we are sitting by a cozy fire again. I love the pot of daffodils and hyacinths. I'm going to be a copycat if I can find a pot of daffodils. I have the hyacinths. '-)

    1. Your cozy fire sounds heavenly! Looking forward to your hyacinths and daffodils.

  5. I love hearing your thoughts on Spring. I think the warmer weather always causes us to breathe in the beauty of life and celebrate new beginnings. I'm looking forward to seeing your beautiful gardens, Michael Lee. You have such a beautiful new home and it's always so much fun to transform a new territory!
    love and blessings~
    Lynda @ Gates of Crystal

    1. I love your comment about new beginnings. It's chilly today, and I'm keeping an eye on the temperature, hoping it warms up enough to prep at least one flower bed.

  6. What a beautiful post Michael Lee. Pop your lavender in rubber tubs indoors until you can replant outdoors. I read that in a month the hummers will return to middle Tennessee. Take care. Carol

  7. What a lovely taste of early spring on your hilltop! We woke to 12 degrees this morning so although the calendar says spring, Mother Nature has other ideas.

    1. 12 degrees! Oh, no! That's just brutal. I hope it warms up soon!

  8. We have had the weather extremes this month in Texas, too. My daughter and I were talking about our favorite seasons the other day. I decided that I am definitely a spring person. I am so much happier when it is warm and sunny and everything is blooming! I think the cold, rainy days just make me appreciate the bright ones more.

  9. Beautiful pictures and words. Oh, how I wish I had your writing gift.
    I ran across two posts I had done recently and one showed the first hummingbird of the season on March 25 and the other on Apr.2nd and I am in south Alabama.
    I've been planning a hummingbird post in my mind. Hope I get to it. My kids are coming home for Easter so it may be later on.
    Have a wonderful week.

  10. I think you do what many of us do. Planning, hoping for the right weather. M? Still praying for rain. I'm not so bad that I have tried a rain dance..but that's next! HOW I want two of those beds. Every year I say I will and then I don't. Just plain lazy? That's part of it. By June you will be in full swing!! Yep, I just bet you will!

  11. I love your note at the end. I miss my walks...and 'seeing'. I will be doing that soon, again. Chicago has been cold and windy this Spring. Thanks for the beautiful post! Sandi

  12. Your mama is a smart cookie—her advice is spot-on. I love everything about lavender. Thanks for sharing all the lovely pictures, Michael.

  13. Gorgeous photography! Cute header for spring too. sheila

  14. So beautiful!!!
    Thanks so much for sharing at AMAZE ME MONDAY!