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 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
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
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