Thursday, November 12, 2020

Planting Hope

The day before the second snowstorm of the fall we planted bulbs: two dozen daffodils and about 50 crocuses, placed here and there through the perennial bed. This is the garden we completely overhauled in the spring, when COVID reshuffled our regular weekend routine of soccer-soccer-soccer, and we found time on Saturdays and Sundays freed up for other things. Months later, with the pandemic raging more strongly than in those first confused and uncertain days – and with the presidential election finally upon us – my children and I tucked papery-brown bulbs into the cold dirt.

I often think that gardening – whether it’s planting vegetable seeds in the spring or flower bulbs in the fall – feels like hope. That couldn’t be any truer than during this year.

I am no big fan of November – the dark days and barren landscape of that in-between-sun-and-snow month. And while I love winter, this year my anticipation of it is more apprehensive than eager. I wonder how we will manage if the kids return to remote schooling (indeed, we already know my older two will spend most of December and the first half of January learning remotely), and whether we will be able to celebrate holiday traditions – and winter birthdays – with family and friends.

The continuing unknowns of 2020 can seem overwhelming sometimes. 

In March, when my work and the kids’ school switched from in-person to remote, literally overnight, we gradually settled into a routine of daily walks, study time, late afternoon family soccer games. Then, the days were lengthening toward summer. The green shoots of flower bulbs planted in autumns long past were poking through the warming earth, and I was contemplating what seeds to sow in the vegetable bed.

Now, of course, we’re heading toward the long nights of winter rather than the promise of spring.

We planted bulbs this fall because in our re-do of the perennial garden, we discarded many things – an abundance of weeds, along with perennial roots and, yes, years-old daffodil and crocus bulbs. And because I have a feeling this winter will seem long. That there will be joy, but also frustrations, more milestones missed, and normal activities canceled or rearranged.

Folding those bulbs into the soil on the cold and blustery first day of November was an act of planning for spring blooms, yes, but it was also a gesture of hope. 

Original content published by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul. This essay appears as Meghan's November 12, 2020 Close to Home column in the Littleton Record.     

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