Iris reticulata began blooming yesterday, weeks early. The crocus began on 2/2, weeks early. In the garden is a sense that winter never came--the leaves are still fluffy and crisp between stalks of aster and coneflower, and many seeds still adorn stems like ornate finials.
So spring is here early, and I've begun the annual cut down not in keeping with my lazy, late March schedule. If I can let in sunlight to the bare soil now, perhaps more plants will sprout. Today I saw two silver-spotted skipper butterflies--how hungry they must be.
As I grasp the stiff neck of a liatris stem, it's not hard to remember the monarch that touched the fleshy sinews, that tasted with its feet the deep-tongued scent of a bloom. It is almost impossible for me to close the sharp blades of my scissors around the stem and snap them closed. The same can be said for the eupatorium that was a favorite ambush point for a preying mantis over several days. And there, beneath the shadow of a maple, I nursed back to health a transplanted milkweed. Up on the hill, the contorted tube of blue sage is an afterimage of a hummingbird, bent down just so against the wind as it reached for early autumn sun, and frozen in this position like some plastic flamingo's neck.
It's difficult being in the spring garden, wiping away a year so carelessly. I'm a sentimental fool. For over a year I've kept the 12' tall ironweed, laid ceremoniously against the basement foundation, tucked away like a mortar board or birth announcement. Looking at it now, two years later, I just can't break it into pieces for the compost pile. It doesn't deserve that.
On my hands and knees I poke my head into a caryopteris and find the seed head of a last black-eyed susan. Pinching it between my fingers I rub off the seeds and toss them into the breeze, letting them fall wherever spring will have them. When the garden is empty of its autumn, flat and devoid of memory, I hope the promise of new growth will carry me past myself and into the world again--as it has each of the last four years. But I just don't know. The garden is never the same, always the same, again and never again. I put the scissors in my pocket and settle on the nearby bench. I hear red-winged blackbirds. The sun is warm. Tulips are breaking through the stubborn clay soil.