The Solace of Spring

Deciduous azalea flower bud

I don’t know if it is just me, but spring’s arrival carries a bittersweet note this year. Human suffering seems more widespread than ever. Mother Earth, too, struggles from the burdens of climate change, pollution, and massive biodiversity loss. This beautiful season of hopeful new beginnings feels heavier than past springs.

Then I step outside into my crazy, mostly wild five-acre yard and my heart begins to sing – softly, as the calls of cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, bluebirds, and woodpeckers reach my ears; louder, as the deafening chorus of spring peepers and cricket frogs (with toad descant accompaniment) kicks into full volume.

The sweet, clean fragrance of witch hazel floats on a northern breeze. Sunny daffodils nod in greeting. Thousands of native bloodroots dance together on a rocky slope overlooking the creek, where quacking mallards and shrieking wood ducks paddle up and down for hours.

Over two inches of rain last week allowed these geese to wade and swim on what is usually dry land.

Five Canada geese have arrived. A small group visits annually at this time, seeking the quiet of the beaver pond to raise a new brood of goslings.

Native blueberry bushes full of blooms are alive with humming pollinators of varying sizes. Buds on native magnolias and azaleas are swelling visibly. The pinxterbloom azaleas will likely be open in another week, if not sooner.

My greenhouse is full of vegetable, herb, and flower seedlings. These will be the summer vegetable garden inhabitants. Already, an array of lettuces, beets, onions, chives, garlic, dill, and parsley are flourishing (and delicious!) in their spring vegetable beds.

Witch hazel ‘Aurora’

A few minutes outside reboots my perspective. All around me, plants and animals are busy living their lives, starting a new cycle of growth and fecundity. Their message seems clear. It is time to get to work, find a purpose, and fulfill it.

I’ve been pondering how to apply this message to my own life. I’ve decided that sharing more of my green world is a good place to start. With that in mind, I’ve decided on these approaches.

  • I will grow enough summer vegetables to yield extras to donate to my local food bank.
  • I am beginning to write a book about my interactions with and lessons learned from working the same piece of Piedmont land for 33 years and counting.
  • If there is interest, I plan to offer classes to small groups using my yard as my classroom. I hope to offer detailed descriptions of the classes soon, but if you are local to the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, NC area and you are interested, please send an email to the address on my About page, and I’ll be sure to put you on my email distribution list.
  • I am hoping to find an apprentice or two, who might be interested in working with me here. In exchange for helping me with garden tasks for a couple of four-hour shifts a week, I will offer modest payment, abundant free plants, and as much information download as you can handle about native plants and animals, native ecology, invasive non-native species, and gardening methods from basic to advanced levels as warranted by the experience of the apprentice. I’m hoping to begin this by early May. If you know someone who might be interested, send an email to the address on my About page. I am willing to work with the right candidate(s) on weekdays or weekends, as long as we can agree on a consistent schedule.

Happy Vernal Equinox to all!

Spring’s message for me this year is focused on nurturing – plants and people. Every seedling planted, weed pulled, and vegetable harvested is a prayer for a brighter future free of suffering, a petition for peace.

May this turning of the seasonal wheel bring lighter hearts and happier days to all of Earth’s inhabitants.

  1. #1 by Donna Deal on March 20, 2022 - 6:59 am

    Happy Spring Catherine! Your descriptions of the plants make me feel like I’m there. I love the idea of classes.

    • #2 by piedmontgardener on March 20, 2022 - 7:27 am

      Happy Spring to you too, Donna! I hope you’ll have time to come out to see the magnolias and azaleas in bloom later in the season. Onward!

  2. #3 by James on March 22, 2022 - 8:56 pm

    Delighted to read your post as always. The description of stepping outdoors at your place was both uplifting and inspiring. If only I was close enough to take advantage of the apprenticeship. Wishing you guys all the best as we continue to muddle through another crazy year.

    • #4 by piedmontgardener on March 23, 2022 - 5:57 am

      Hello, James! Thanks for your compliments and well-wishes. I hope I can find some apprentices with your enthusiasm close enough to make their work logistically practical.

      Happy Spring to your and yours!

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