We are reaching that time of year here in the North Woods when the foggy and chilly spring mornings often burn away into sunny, warm, breezy-cool afternoons and evenings. The solstice draws near and even by ten at night, the sky only reaches the color of Crayola-crayon primary blue. This is usually the time I really begin to wake up to working in the garden.
The garden for it’s part has already awoken from it’s slumber, for a couple of weeks plants have been growing wildly and with gusto, no longer mere buds – up here life makes the most of mild weather. I am an amateur in gardening, still learning about it, I am an amateur at many things. I don’t try to contain the wildness too much though. I don’t feel compelled to pull every invasive weed, just the ones who overstep their bounds and begin strangling the other plants. I don’t know if that’s a good tack. When I first started working this little plot, I felt almost philosophically that maybe pulling every weed wasn’t the right thing to do. We all have to grow among some weeds after all, and that sort of growing can make us hearty. Then I found in clearing out the beds that we have a lot of wonderful earthworms in our garden enriching the soil and often clinging to/finding nurture from the root systems of those tender, early sprouting weeds that persevere and grow even on the coldest spring days. Even not being an overzealous weeder, there’s always a fair bit of cleaning up to do.
Two days ago, turning over a pot on the concrete patio, that had only contained maybe an inch of remaining soil last fall when sitting upright, I found a colony of small lethargic earth worms surviving in the meager conditions of that little pot – warm, but already having eaten the soil that was available. I began a laborious process of transplanting these sixty (seventy?) worms to beds where they could grow and thrive and help my soil as well as themselves. The thing about earthworms: they have limited sensory mechanisms, they do not comprehend when you are trying to help them and they panic, and wiggle off sticks and spades and leaves and whatever else you try to move them with. I know this because I have a lot of experience moving worms to more hospitable living environs: worms who find themselves stuck on sidewalks after a good rain for instance. It’s a labor of love. Ha. A labor of love my kids find kind of gross, and I’m sure my neighbors think is weird. BUT, the other thing about earthworms, once you do move them, they instantly relax. Maybe they are just tired. Maybe they are just that stark with their reactions or perceptions of the world – relax or fight/flight. In any case they suddenly know, that not every creature, or at least that last creature wasn’t trying to eat them.
Going into the garage to look for my pruning shears, I ran across a honey bee that was determined to get outside of the garage through a window that is a bit stuck-shut, the frame swollen from the sudden humidity. I left the side door open and the garage door open and tried to fan the breeze so the bee would be intrigued or might investigate and try to find another way out. I thought about collecting the bee in a large bucket and then taking the bucket outside. The bee was obsessed with the light behind the glass that signified “outside” and led away from the still shadow of “inside”, nothing could redirect his attention. I tried to open the window by prying a bit at the corner that was stuck with a narrow screw driver inside, and then when that wouldn’t budge, I lugged a big ladder outside and tried to pry the window open from the outside. Nothing was working, twenty minutes later I was tired and the bee seemed to be too. I said to him, out loud, haha, and yes I know, I know, but I said to him, “Look Dude, I am trying to help you, I am not going to hurt you.” And then I put an unused paint mixing stick in front of his antennae, nudging him ever so slightly, and I swear to God, he stepped onto the end of the stick and stayed there while I carried the stick outside and set it down on the ground so he could fly away.
I came across a web full of clustered tiny, tiny, spider-like creatures and I had to decide whether they were baby spiders or spider mites. I determined they were baby spiders of a common garden variety, helpful to gardens actually. While I was researching this, what I assume was the mother spider appeared from behind the web, observing me while waiting in front of her children. Her relative size was not very large in any way, a very basic garden spider, and compared to me … well, I must have seemed a ridiculous giant to her. Anyway, I moved to another area about half a foot away from them to work and she retreated back to the leaves behind her somewhat hidden web of babies.
Finishing up my work for the day, it was around 4/4:30 pm and hundreds of geese flew low and directly overhead of where I was working, in a cacophony of curved V-formations, near the end of their long journey back to their summer homes. In Celtic mythology geese are noted for being keen navigators, spiritual guides during transitions, symbols for leading warriors home to safety, fierce protectors of their young, spirited and independent creatures rooted in community, with admirable loyalty to their fellows – geese do not abandon a fallen goose, rather if a fellow goose falls ill, another goose will wait with her, until she recovers or dies, before rejoining the community. Early Celtic Christians adopted the goose as their symbol for the Holy Spirit. My great grandmother, who first saw geese as a young Finnish immigrant entering Ellis Island, admired and fed these birds each spring for her entire life .
A blessed ending to the day’s work.