I thought the privets were all dead. Completely. It wasn’t the long snows of December, but the cold followed by the slight warming followed by two more snows into mid April that seemed to push a normally even tempered species over the edge. As with romance, it is not the lover who leaves quickly and without ceremony who does the greatest damage but the one who says yes no maybe but then again hmmm who can leave you exhausted and unable to resurrect your heart.
I had planned grudgingly to replace them all. (The privets, that is.) So I was stunned yesterday to find the gray and scabrous branches draped in filigree, hugged by dozens of amorous new leaves. It seemed no less a miracle than if the gray planked fence itself came to life. I could feel a Girl Scout lecture coming, something about fortitude, resolve, endurance. And it was all true. Adversity does breed character, or at least a lot more leaves and a stronger root system. April’s gray snows have been replaced with a carpet of jade and the exultant swords of dandelions. The malingering dogwood rudely transplanted five years ago has pink castanets among its leaves for the first time. The windmill palms which I thought would break under ice now wear long chains of golden seeds, and the vines I planted at their roots have leapt six feet and bloomed large and purple.
Why not be patient? And be surprised? The delphinium took four months last year to grow one foot, and then bloomed twice, once in November. I can humble myself to lessons from the dirt. Unlike Democritus of Abdera, who in 1621 put out his own eyes “the better to see” I am not overwhelmed either by the Anatomy of Melancholy or the relentless optimism of flowers. There is so much food here. Even as I feast my eyes the ants feast on the peony buds, and the bees drink from the geranium. One layer of impressions layers over the next, dappled light and hot light and slanted mornings and afternoons and I know there is something gathering.