are free… _lowres

Photo by R. Stephanie Bruno -- Fennel, dill, and parsley serve as host plants for some species of butterflies especially the Spicebush Swallowtail.

Even if the IRS didn’t cast its long shadow over the middle of April, other duties of spring would remind me that the march of the calendar brings plenty to do.

I filed federal taxes on time this month, but another deadline eluded me. Easter, I think, is the proper time to have a yard and garden in order — the beds weeded, the brush cleared, the hundred little leavings of winter tucked away to make room for resurrection, spiritual and otherwise.

But the holiday arrived with much still unfinished outside. Maybe I should be old enough by now to understand that a garden is always a work in progress. Even so, this spring has brought, it seems, more loose ends than usual.

Or so I thought to myself on the evening before Easter, as the dull beak of my pruning shears worked its way through the tattered fronds of our Chinese fan palms. Winter had withered the worst of the lot to the color of parchment. I clipped away the dead stuff, the pile rising as high as a funeral bier.

Dusk fell, closing the curtain on a long list of things undone. The backlog had deepened last summer, when we retreated from yard chores to focus on flood victims and other urgencies of a season sunk in bad news. We count ourselves among the lucky ones. Our home stayed dry, and for us, the worst disruption of those strange months was a minor comedy involving the replacement of some old kitchen plumbing. To bury new pipes, the plumber dug a long, winding trench through the front lawn, leaving a wide wound across the turf that’s only now beginning to heal.

New grass is slowly bridging the gash, and what once resembled a cow path is a bit narrower now, more like a rabbit trail as the turf reweaves itself.

The digging also upended the small walkway that leads to our front door, the stepping stones so knocked out of line that the approach to our home now looks like a jack-o’-lantern’s smile.

My back isn’t strong enough to set it right, so some men will come to set new stones, pour new gravel, and make a fresh welcome for visitors.

There will be lots of other chores for them to do. I need help cutting back the tallows that are touching the roof, like a finger jabbed into the chest, testing our resolve to stand our ground against the jungle that, in south Louisiana, always seems ready to swallow up the complacent. With hired hands, we’ll hack at brambles, tear away vines, mulch the shrubs against the coming heat.

My plot of potatoes sports tiny purple blossoms as delicate as the finery on an Easter hat. Last weekend, my wife spotted one raindrop suspended in the branches of the fennel, like a single tear.

May the coming summer bring no tears at all.

Follow Danny Heitman on Twitter, @Danny_Heitman.