I am standing outside in the garden with my bare feet in the earth for the first time in six months. I am watching my daughters peel off layers—sweaters, boots, socks, leggings. They put their hands in the soil and drag buckets up the hill, filled with water. Water is sloshing over their toes. Cold, cold water from our well. Cold water on now warm earth. For spring has arrived, it seems, overnight. The shift in weather feels so fragile, temporary even. I don’t want to miss a moment of the day unfolding outside. I wander around our house; out into the meadow; down into the woods; and back into the garden, noticing.
Our precious garlic shoots are poking up out of the crusty garden bed after a deep winter hibernation. I bend down, look closely, and wonder how much effort it took to break through the clay-filled soil. And what have they been meditating about, under there, for half a year? My mind drifts back to the dwindling October light last autumn when we dreamed of a garden. We had so many plans—years of plans stored up in our heads and in our hearts. So much we wanted to accomplish. But after all that dreaming it started in the most humble of ways—as gardens do—when my husband and I turned over the earth with our little girls dancing around us (they were so much littler then, somehow). We held cloves of garlic from a dear friend’s farm—warm and pungent—in our hands. And as we sunk each ivory-colored beauty into our very first garden bed at our new home, I was filled with deep gratitude.
Soon after planting day, the cloves were covered up and the north wind arrived. We settled into our place and they settled into theirs. Through snow and rain, thaw and melt, more and more snow, our garlic cloves gathered wisdom from deep within. We learned how to live on top of a hill, watching storms roll across the lake. Listening to the wind howl around our windows. It was a long winter. There was a surprise snow storm on the first of March that brought three feet of thick, wet snow and left our corner of the world without electricity for days. During all that, our garlic rested, patiently, hidden from sight.
And now, finally, enlightened after months of quiet, here it is emerging from its winter bed—one of the first garden plants to greet the spring sunshine. Am I ready, too, for the coming season? Did I sit in stillness; rest in the darkness long enough? Have I put down adequate roots over the winter?
The girls are shouting now—with delight. Bringing me back to the present. After emerging from their long winter cocoons (bodies covered from head-to-toe in layers of cotton and wool) they look different out in the sunshine. Taller. Stronger. My little one moves with more confidence. She has grown up out of her toddler body during the freezing months. She raises her voice in the wind. Singing loudly, she calls out curiously across the hill—reawakened by the sun and wind on her bare hands and feet. My older one crawls around on the ground and notices a tiny insect. She is quiet, taking in the changes around her. She pushes her hands into the earth, feeling the beginnings of warmth bringing the world back to life.
This is their first spring in this place: the garlic and the children. They are all transplants. Last spring this home was just a dream. Not even a dream, really. More like a hope. Hope for a place to make our own. A place to transplant our hopes. How good it is to know, this spring, that we are here to stay. I watch them—the garlic shoots and the growing children—with a different sort peace this year. I feel the changes in the air more acutely because I am not wondering where we will go next.
Not satisfied with mere buckets of water, the girls turn on the hose. Earth turns to mud. Mud in between their fingers and toes. Bliss. I see mud splattering on clean dresses. Mud in locks of no-longer-shiny blond hair. Mud filling the garden beds that have yet to come to life. I remind the girls to (please!) not step on the baby garlic shoots, and then I sit back on the warm carpet of thyme. I sit back and watch our children play in the fullness of new spring life.
Zane Kathryne Schwaiger lives on a Northern Michigan hill with her husband and two daughters. She blogs here.