In her final Easters with us, my late mother liked to end her holiday lunch with coffee in the garden, where she could see what was new in a world resurrecting itself from the dull, brown grave of winter.
I can still picture her with cup in hand, surveying the ferns, roses and coneflowers like a queen reviewing her troops. She had owned a plant nursery and was a florist for years, watching flats of daisies and petunias go out the door of her shop and into other people’s yards. But in retirement, she could savor a leaf or bloom not as something that she had to train into usefulness, like her child, but as a treasure simply to look at, like her grandchild.
The best days of looking are now upon us, but they won’t last long, as Easter’s passage earlier this month reminded me. The spring light these days perfectly illuminates a yard as an artist might — strong enough to sharpen every detail like some apple by Cézanne but not so brightly that it blanches the eye. That just-right combination of sun and earth and sky, like most kinds of perfection, is temporary.
True spring — the season of moderate light and balmy days — is short in this part of the world. Soon, Louisiana’s lawns and patios will sit under sun as fierce as an interrogation lamp. We’ll have to squint through June and July’s bitter brilliance to see what’s outdoors, as if peering through a welder’s mask.
That’s all the more reason to welcome spring sunlight in the same way that we herald a supermoon or a solar eclipse — as a momentary wonder to marvel over before it’s gone. It’s not only the light that’s worthy of attention, but what, with flawless clarity, it throws into focus.
I can now see from the window that our sago palms, which I cut back only days ago to remove the dead fronds claimed by last year’s freeze, are already making a comeback. The palm looked lifeless after I trimmed off its ragged headdress, as forlorn as Samson sheared of his locks. But now, radiating from its center, is a circle of new shoots, like a hand extended in greeting.
Our ginger plants, which seemed doomed after the mercury plunged in January, are back, too — green, invincible and massed near the back door, an army no winter here can hope to conquer.
I notice the wild violets have also returned, an arrival not everyone will celebrate. Many gardeners dislike wild violets for the same reason I cheer them: they go where they please and do what they want. I’ve spotted some just now lacing the fence line, like Carnival beads no one has bothered to claim.
These are the things I’m usually too busy to notice as the season tugs me elsewhere. My mother, were she still here, would remind me to stop and look around.
Follow Danny Heitman on Twitter, @Danny_Heitman.