River muse

Hope

By CASS COLLINS
Posted 7/1/20

As if to ease our worldly burdens, nature has bestowed us with abundance this summer like no other. What a gift to be quarantined on our acre by the river, rather than in the ghostly streets of the …

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River muse

Hope

Posted

As if to ease our worldly burdens, nature has bestowed us with abundance this summer like no other. What a gift to be quarantined on our acre by the river, rather than in the ghostly streets of the city we once called home. The city’s flowers are its people and their activity. Without that, it all fades to a dull gray in my eyes. Here, I can cheer on the dogwood’s blossoming, white icing on arcing branches aspiring to the sky. The skies have been the most amazing blue with dramatic bursts of white clouds.

The circle of milkweed that is our pollinator’s garden is fuller than ever with bees and birds. Maybe they can read the sign I painted for them, “Bees Welcome.” Over the years, I have planted trees, hydrangeas, viburnum, lilacs and numerous perennials, but it has taken me 20 years to plant an asparagus bed here. Twenty years of too many distractions, too much hither and yon—not enough here and now.

Asparagus requires a weed-free environment protected from animals. I often thought about making a bed, read about how to prepare the soil and reap the harvest only after three years, but I had not put the shovel in the ground. My husband was keen to hear of a project he could master: the building of the beds. His activity has been strictly monitored since the pandemic, so the chance to visit the lumberyard on the hill delighted him. Grounded as he is in science, he is usually the only masked man there. Apparently “real men” don’t wear masks.

His planning skills seem to be lacking. Numerous trips to the lumberyard could surely have benefitted from making a comprehensive list of materials beforehand. But it is the only chance he gets to see other people.

Asparagus is one of those vegetables that takes its time to produce but, when it does, it produces for decades. I grabbed a handful of crowns at the Agway this spring, impulsively determined to begin my long-delayed harvest. Between the intention and the action falls the shadow, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot. Many trips to the Agway for soil and fencing and to the lumberyard for boards, posts and forgotten nails has brought us only a little closer to the harvest of 2022. That is when we can hope to reap enough spears to feed our small family. But, as food prices soar—I last paid $6.99 for a bunch—we will be happy to have our own supply someday.

Other garden beds have risen in the neighborhood, seemingly overnight compared to our slow progress. They were called Victory Gardens during wartime, when homeowners and even tenement-dwellers grew their own food to support the war effort. Our little garden has a name now, too. It bears a sign that reads, “Hope.”

We hope for many things, among them a more just society, a new government, a defeat of the pandemic and preparedness for future threats. We vote, demonstrate and work to make our hopes reality. Sometimes it takes years.

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