Life goes on
We begin with a minute’s silence. I can’t call her a friend because I didn’t know her well enough, but she was in my crowd, to the extent that I as a nineteen-marks-out-of-twenty introvert have a crowd, and she was a good person—and had three half grown kids—and took piano lessons, and gave me Oisin’s name and phone number, six or so years ago. She’s been ill for a while, and at first it looked like she was gaining on it, but we’ve known for a while now that it was gaining on her. We knew it wasn’t long . . . but this was still soon, and sudden.
We begin with a minute’s silence.
* * *
Yesterday was a gorgeous day, a perfect gardening day, the sort of day you have to tie yourself to your chair to stop yourself from rushing outdoors but your neck keeps mutinously turning your face toward the window anyway and your eyes gaze longingly into the garden where there are little green leafbuds everywhere.* Why didn’t someone else cancel handbells? Niall is a monomaniac, of course,** but both Colin and Gemma have gardens. That was yesterday.
And today, when I could have wrested an hour or two free of other demanding activities, it was suddenly cold and grey and bone-achingly horrible again. That didn’t stop another (small) box of hopeful plant life arriving on my doorstep or me reading gardening magazines over what passes in my case for breakfast***. And I came emphatically home after my cup of tea with Oisin† and went out into the garden and damn the weather. This is partly because it’s Oisin who told me that—let’s call her Gloriana—had died. Spring is some comfort; or if not comfort, exactly, the sense of that new young energy dragging you with it—green leaves, warmer temperatures (sometimes), more daylight, lambs and calves in the fields—makes you keep moving, makes you notice you’re still alive.††
I went out and planted my acidanthera ††† and admired my increasing hyacinth forest, since I’ve fallen into the habit the last few years of planting out any of my indoor-forced hyacinth bulbs that still look healthy the next spring. The first daffs are out, and both my gardens are popping with little green noses of things I’ve lost the labels of—and I have a resident robin at the cottage again for the first time in several years. The blackbirds have become right thugs, and while there’s always a territorial robin in the background, I haven’t seen nearly enough of him. At the moment I even have a pair so maybe there will be a nest with little baby robins.
And there’s a human baby I know who’s due to pop into this world and start breathing for itself any minute now. Life goes on.
* * *
Maybe we’ll end with a moment of silence as well.
* * *
*Fortunately I’m a touch typist.
** He does garden, I believe, when Penelope hands him an implement and tells him to go hack that thing down or dig a hole there or something. But he’s not what you’d call self motivated.
*** Our somewhat-seasonal organic grocery delivery has just put grapes back on its list. It’s summer. Well, it’s summer for fifteen minutes in the morning while I eat a handful of grapes.
Out in the real world I’m watching the lilac bushes with obsessive attention. The funny little nobbles that will become lilac flowers start appearing not long after the leafbuds do, and we have leafbuds. I know every lilac in this town, I swear, and New Arcadia has a lot of lilacs, for some reason. Before I bought Third House I didn’t have any of my own and so I tracked down everyone else’s: we have the purple ones, the lavender ones, the magenta ones, the pink ones, the white ones, and the red-purple with white edges ones. We have the knock-you-down-at-a-hundred-paces scented ones and the bury-your-face-in-the-flowers-first scented ones, but they’re all good. Peter does not share my enthusiasm—he points out with some justice that they are not particularly attractive shrubs^ and they’re only in flower a few weeks of the year. He feels there are more generally rewarding plants. Well, maybe,^^ but they aren’t lilacs. Although I may just be marked by all those years in Maine: as I’ve said before, you certainly can garden in Maine, and people do, but it’s very, very hard graft, of a sort that makes the most back-breaking labour in southern England look like a Victorian gentlewoman with a sun-bonnet and a trug snipping a few blooms for a posy. Of the standard garden plants there aren’t that many that will thrive in Maine. Lilacs are one of them. And they are so necessary at the end of that frelling winter.
I have four lilacs at Third House and it’s not a big garden. Well, five: the fifth is a ‘patio syringa’. Beware of lilacs called by their Latin^^^ name: it tends to mean they aren’t lilacs, they’re just lumped into the genus by some frelling botanist. I had this one in a pot at the cottage, and I was not nice to it because it wasn’t a PROPER LILAC. I took pity on it and planted it (in a corner, where it wouldn’t bother me) at Third House and it is so happy, poor thing. I like it much better now when I don’t try to think of it as a lilac.
^ He keeps making this same irrelevant comment about roses.
^^ . . . roses
^^^ Or New Latin/Greek. WTF??
† Who was perhaps as near as I ever see him get to cranky when, as I was leaving, I admitted I had brought music with me and then hadn’t told him. Well, when I came in, he was playing something amazing on the organ^, Paul Hindemith’s first organ sonata, in fact, and fortunately I didn’t know it was Hindemith or I might have covered my ears and rushed back outside again. Oisin has been telling me for a while that I am slightly wrong about Hindemith. Anyway. It’s exactly my sort of thing and by the end I know this is stupid, okay? the idea of following it with my so-called singing was just not on. I was even singing what counts with me as pretty well this morning. Siiiiiiiiigh. I don’t actually know how to think about switching between professional performance and amateur; there isn’t any very useful parallel, it seems to me, between music, which does have to be performed, and professionally-written-down stories, which don’t. The amateur reader doesn’t need any help: she just reads the book. Caro Mio Ben or Dove Sei aren’t songs unless someone sings them. Arrgh.
^ I wonder if this works in England. Never mind. I’ll just buy a CD. http://www.classicalarchives.com/work/272545.html
†† I am of course flashbacking to Diana’s death—a year ago the end of this month. And I’ve got three big anniversaries of loss in April which is weird because now begins my favourite time of year, and it—you should forgive the term—snowballs through April when, in southern England, the lilacs come out. And the bluebells.
††† I am totally failing to find a good photo of them, possibly because part of their great charm is their scent. Here’s someone talking about how fabulous they are: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/howtogrow/3305281/How-to-grow-Gladiolus-callianthus.html
And here’s an uninspiring photo: http://www.crocus.co.uk/plants/_/bulbs/gladioli/gladiolus-murielae-/itemno.BU30001081/
Oh yes, and you’re not supposed to call them acidanthera any more. Piffle.
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