Columns/Opinion, Irene Marinelli

Flower-frailty and the passing beauty of spring

By Irene Marinelli

“Spring drew on … and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.” — Charlotte Bronte

The first day of spring was in mid-March but who would have guessed it without looking at the calendar?
Snow, freezing nights, wind and cold rain obscured the coming of this gentle season we treasure. Finally, it looks like we may welcome temperate nights and balmy days, flowers and budding trees that sway in gentle breezes, earth warm enough to welcome seeds and seedlings.
I’ve always thought the early spring flowers that dare the winds and snows beautiful in their frailty, courageous in their tenacious hold on life. They seem more precious for their short life span than the bright, strapping somewhat garish blooms of summer. Spring is quick-change; summer a bright steadiness in the gardens.
Why are we so besotted with spring? Perhaps it is the longer days with their abundance of warmth and sunlight that pull us in. A 2016 study at Brigham Young University came to the following conclusion: “The longer the sun was up during the day, the less mental stress people experienced.”
Another study, this one conducted at the University of Michigan, found spending as littleas 30 minutes outside in warm (not blazing hot) spring weather led to higher mood as well as better memory and heightened creativity.
In an article in Psychology Today, Anthony Scioli writes perceptively about the connection between springtime and hope: “It is true that hope does not melt away in the summer; it is not rendered fallow in autumn nor does it perish in the deep freeze of winter. But none of these other seasons can match the bounty of hope that greets us in spring.”
For me, as for many other people, spring is hope. Somehow when everything is in bud or bloom, when the sun
sends its beneficent warmth to take away the winter chill, life seems more gentle, more hopeful. Somehow, in spite of age and waning energy,
we seem able to take on tasks that would be daunting at any other time of year. The house wants cleaning; the gardens beckon. There is a special joy in dropping a seed into the ground, hoping for brilliant blooms or a delicious, sun-ripened tomato.
I agree with author Ruth Stout who writes, “I love spring everywhere, but if I could choose, I would always greet it in a garden.”
There are times in this mellow season when we simply have to shelve every duty and chore to wander along a woods’ path with Pierre, the big dog running ahead, smelling every tree stump and hole for anything he can chase. We need to stop work long enough to appreciate the earthy smell of new-turned dirt, to marvel at the way the flowers change and grow day by day. We must dig young dandelion greens to cook with bacon, have tea in the pond garden.
As a species, we are a people of hope. It never truly dies in us. Hope simply waits out the winter storms in our lives. Renewed, it will return. Just as we know our lives will sometimes be tossed and buffeted by winter winds, sometimes snow-buried by obligations, illness, pain and seemingly unsolvable problems, we also know there will be a return of spring and a resurgence of hope.
Rob, Pierre and I are going out to the gardens today, to dig and plant, to get dirty, weedy and wet and to welcome spring with joy.