Mary Beth Writes

The photo is from this morning and is for you, Michol! This dam on the Fox River is alive with rushing water.

I have been writing nearly every day for two months. I am going to mix it up for a while: Write new things or post old things. I don’t know if this is a good way forward but I’m ready to do more things in this quarantine hiatus in my life. More reading. More outside yard work and hiking. I’m thinking about short stories I have written and not posted here as well as ones I might like to try to write (there are characters who visit me in the middle of the night to pester me about when they get to see the light of day).

This column is from when we lived in Racine.

April 29, 2005 – Vignettes of Spring

Spring Scene #1

My husband's sister and her family came to dinner on Easter. Three-year old Casey kept busy keeping everyone busy. Baby Eli smiled his gummy smile at all of us, especially his big brother.    

At one point during the afternoon my son, pouring himself a glass of water at the kitchen sink, called out, "Hey, there's a deer in the backyard!"

We all trooped into the kitchen to peer out the window. Sure enough, there stood a long-legged, Wisconsinite, Julia Roberts look-alike in the thicket behind our property line. Her ears twitched as she watched the world through her large brown eyes.    

My brother-in-law, an avid hunter, muttered something along the lines of, "Dang."

Casey chirped, "Let's catch it, Daddy."

The deer turned to look at all of us looking at it, then leapt to race away. I sighed for the fleeting beauty of an elegant animal on a Spring day.

Ten minutes later, I glanced out a different window.

The deer was back, "elegantly" eating every tulip bud in my garden.

We are touched and inspired by the ephemeral loveliness of Mother Earth, until Mother Earth's "I Love Lucy" comic side shows, the yard's stripped, the joke's on us.

Spring Scene #2

I've had this same husband for about a thousand years now, and each Spring, like the return of cuckoo birds, my husband plants seeds inside the house. He jerry-rigs various greenhouse systems in our basement that, he tells me, will baby the teeny seedlings along until he can plant them outdoors.    

"This year," he tells me every year, "it'll work."

The current rig is a coffin-looking thing made out of scrap lumber. Grow lights hang across the top.    Adjustable window screens from our first apartment (1981) surround the box to keep the cats out. He plugs in the lights each morning, unplugs them at night. Sometimes, if he forgets, his cynical wife will secretly do the plugging and unplugging.

If this year is like every other year, a few plants will make it, most will disintegrate back into their peat pots. By the end of May I buy some plants at a nursery, hand them over with the kind of loving, silent, know-it-all smile spouses learn in their first millennia together.

This is what I suspect. I don't think my husband cares whether he succeeds or not. I think he just likes messing around with dirt, seeds, lumber, and lights n the spring.    

Though the other day, as I reclined on the sofa with a non-improving book (he tilts at windmills, I read about them) he came into the living room grinning.

"Guess what?"

"What?"

"I'm getting True Leaves!"

Hope and expectation bloom in Spring.

Spring Scene #3

Friends of mine spent a weekend at the Heifer Project farm in Arkansas not long ago. (Heifer Project is an international non-profit organization that gives people in developing countries various farm animals plus the training to raise them.)    

They went during lambing season. Guests are mostly women, mostly of the not-a-Spring-chicken-anymore variety. Guests attend some seminars about the global politics of hunger. They also, sometimes, get to encourage birthing mom-sheep and hold the lambs.

My friends told me their last day there a frantic sheep who needed to deliver did not want to do it.    Many women can empathize.

The more that lamb tried to get itself born, the more the mom butted and ran through the other sheep, trying to get away from whatever was happening at the back end of her. Two farm workers had to chase her down, grab her, wrestle her to her side so that the vet could quickly finish delivering a lamb who was already partly born.    

While this scenario was playing out, most of the guests ended up lined along the pasture fence to watch the drama. All were unselfconsciously muttering encouragement, praying a little, urging the scared sheep along.                      

My friends said it was both funny and powerful to be part of that gang of several dozen anxious matrons, all rooting for the safe delivery of one not-too-bright sheep.    

When the little lamb was finally born and the new mom turned to lick it, all the women sighed together.

Getting new life underway is not always a shoe-in. Sometimes we have to worry and hope together.    That's Spring, too.

Spring Scene #4

I walked to the lake (we used to live close to Lake Michigan) with my dog. We ambled out on a dock; I admired the mystically endless blue horizon before me. I smiled at a few ducks floating past, listened to the gentle lap-lap of waves under the dock.

Suddenly a goose I'd not noticed started squawking as if dynamite had gone off directly under her. Another goose rose up off the lake in an explosion of wings and water to come screaming and streaming straight at me, wings furiously flapping, honking like Hong Kong at rush hour.

Yup. I was a few yards from a big nest lined with goose down in which were four vibrant, creamy eggs.    

Where it's noisy, chaotic, and threatening, it also might be Spring.

 

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Comments

I'm sitting in my car parked in front of the house waiting for the rain to stop so that I can unload the car of the group of garden plants I rescued from the clearance section at Lowe's my weekly mission during the spring and summer months... I really don't need these but that's not why I do... I do it because it's thrilling to bring something back to its former glory and to see it reappear in succeeding years happy to have joined the rest of it's motley clearance shelf mates... I had bills in the car so I payed those off.( Just glad I'm one of those who can ) I gladly gave cooking advice to a friend who called while I was in the dry warmth of the car... Just another sign of spring

At least, I hope it is Spring here in VT. We planted most of the garden today. I am holding out on the corn and the baby tomato plants I have under the lights in the basement. I have never grown tomatoes from seeds before.... It is a big garden, bigger than usual, as I fear we will have many hungry people in these United States. DH and I cannot help everyone but maybe some local folk will appreciate some fresh veg. Lots of people are planning gardens this year! My son’s NYC in-laws are planting! Blessings to you and yours. Stay safe. Joyce
Mary Beth's picture

We need a designated day when we post photos of peoples' gardens this summer! I will think about that.

Loved all the short stories. Prob because I know the people in them! You do make stories come alive.

Thanks for the picture! I'd be down there every day now if I lived in Waukesha. I've been trying to fence in all the plants that the deer think come up every year just for them......yup tulips are one, but they watch the other things until they are 4 ft. high an just about to bloom, and then....they're gone one morning when I go out to see if today is the day they will bloom. So now my yard looks sortof like a metal scrape yard....still not sure if I'll win.
Mary Beth's picture

That's funny and I know what you mean. A "protected" yard is an armored yard...

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