It happened the other morning, as I was standing at the mirror shaving, not quite ready to start the day. Some work the night before had kept me up late, so I was still feeling physically tired.
I felt spiritually tired, too. Each morning, our alarm clock airs the national news to wake us up, which is maybe not the best way to rouse a soul from bed. The early broadcast had brought the usual reports of politicians doing dumb stuff. It’s enough to make a slugabed curl into the fetal position, staying beneath the covers and not rising at all.
But I’d managed to resume a vertical stance, perched before the sink with lather across my face, when a flash of white caught the corner of my eye. Turning toward the window, I could see more clearly what my side glance had noticed. Our mayhaw tree was blooming again, its branches tipped with blossoms that looked like tiny snowballs.
And that made me think about the late Franklin Williams, a man I’d written about last February. Franklin was the arborist who took care of our trees, and after he removed a huge and sickly oak from our yard, I had asked him to cut down the mayhaw, too. It looked weak and wasted and not likely to see another spring. With a quick swipe of the chainsaw and a few trips to the curb, Franklin could have dispatched the little tree and carried it away.
But at the cost of losing some extra business, he talked me into keeping the mayhaw. There was nothing wrong with the tree, he told me, that nature and time wouldn’t fix.
True to Franklin’s prediction, the mayhaw rebounded, and it’s bloomed more than a dozen springs since I signed its death warrant.
Franklin himself is gone now, but the mayhaw he spared reminds me each February that resilience can spring from unlikely sources. It’s something I try to keep in mind when the world seems more intent on ruin than renewal.
Elsewhere in the yard, as spring approaches this month, other things nudge me toward the promise of the future. Around Valentine’s Day, on hands and knees, I planted seed potatoes in pots near the porch. Each spud was studded with tiny buds, reminding me of those old naval landmines spiked all around with charges.
The explosive energy of a seed potato is more subtle, but in its own way, just as impressive. I marvel each year that a little brown tuber, plain and ugly as an old shoe, will sprout lovely green shoots just a few weeks after I cover it in a darkness as profound as the grave.
Upon such miracles, the promise of Easter is made. Coffee in hand, I walk to the porch in these early days of Lent, remembering to do something I was in danger of forgetting. I look at the garden and hope.
Follow Danny Heitman on Twitter, @Danny_Heitman.