A Breath of Fresh Air

A Breath of Fresh Air
By Carrie Madren

"These are days you'll remember, when May is rushing over you, with desire, to be part of the miracles you see in every hour." -10,000 Maniacs, "These are Days"
Spring made many attempts before it finally stuck this year. March brought weeks of warm spells followed by freezing nights. So instead of warmth and dew in the first part of the day, unexpected brisk air chilled my face as I stepped out.
Then one morning, braced for the cold, I instead felt a release. It wasn't just the warmer air. Slowing down, I noticed chartreuse buds and sensed the sun's energy after this long, cold winter. Welcome, spring.
Shedding winter coats, each spring we adopt a new dress code, freeing our toes and baring our limbs. Adapting to a new way of life, we slow down our outdoor pace instead of scurrying to heated quarters. Longer, brighter days leave time for lingering outdoors, feeling grass between our toes and soft breezes like chiffon scarves, light as air, against our skin.
Now is the time when nature plows through, unstoppable, like a slow freight train, leaving bright colors and lush shoots in its wake. Bird songs fill silent air with tentative twitterings and sweet whistles. Spring, smelling of earthworms and warm grass, is the forerunner of change. I take a deep breath, inhaling the newness all around.
The first Saturday you get your hands dirty with yard work and planting is a spring rite of passage, so go gloveless on that inaugural dig. Feel the ground, prepare the soil and press plants firmly around their bases. Relish the earthy smell. Renew your wonder at the miracle of seeds germinating.
Crocuses, the brave first blooms, gave us hope at the beginning of March. Then daffodils made their entrance, followed by tulips. We greet perennials like old friends, the bleeding heart, delicate as a porcelain statue, will soon fill out in a garden bed, and hostas will shoot up like spears, uncurling from winter hibernation. Velvety ferns poke up in fiddleheads and lily of the valley part layers of dead leaves. Discover a new perennial to welcome into your yard - last year, iris became a new addition to my garden's mix.
Spring annuals are like visiting neighbors with varying personalities: optimistic Gerber daisies, all-American geraniums and wild-looking petunias.
Tough economic times may have diminished your planting budget, but growing from seeds saves money. Attend plant sales hosted by local garden groups or Master Gardeners for more savings - plus heaps of advice on how to rid your plants of aphids and get herbs to flourish.
Or, find a neighbor who's dividing day lilies and you can swap for some of your abundant blue flag. Remember one gardener's weed is another's treasure: English ivy isn't so bad contained in a pot, overflowing vines cascading down and carefully trimmed.
Just as thrilling is bringing the outdoors in. Spring bouquets add botanical color, and wide-open windows renew the stuffy air that sustained us during winter months.
Planting our summer garden and flower beds gives us a clean slate each spring, before the weeds of summer sprout and drought demands loyal watering regimens. We can all use a clean slate, another chance to make the most of this growing season, this year. Seize the opportunity to start over in problems that have grown too unwieldy, schedules grown too hectic and relationships now faded.
Now, too, is the time for healing, time for taking deeper breaths and going forward, with courage, into a world full of uncertainty. Just as we clean out rogue leaves from gutters and behind bushes, now's also the time to clean out areas of our lives that feel stale, unused. Like a second New Year's, we're cleaning out the old and freshening up our spaces and attitudes. It's time to germinate ideas and plans - a weekend camping trip, a dinner party or a new home project - that came to us as seeds of ideas. So take a lesson from your garden, and get growing again.
Soon enough, we'll be swatting sweat bees, weeding wildly and feeling damp from humidity. So fill yourself with spring air before heat forces us once again indoors or into shade. Reach out into the sunlight, and the rain, and be energized.

Carrie Madren writes about environmental issues, Chesapeake life and sustainable living. She lives in Olney, Maryland. Distributed by Bay Journal News Service.