DiggingIn

diggingin
"Call it vanity, I don't care. It feels like sanity to me."

By mid-April, my backyard snowbank's finally less than two feet deep and the surrounding yard saturated as it will not again be soaked until this time next year. The underlying hardpan becomes friable for a few terribly short weeks, and I kneel in humble appreciation. The house has by this time of the year shrunken to the size of a toolshed, more jail cell than home. I flee the wintertime boundaries which kept me incarcerated since October, aching for fresh grass stains on my knees and a newly aching shoulder joint. I deadhead the buff beige leftovers from last year's yarrow blossoms and rake up the worst of the pine needles culled down by the insistent winter westerlies. Blade breaks earth and the garden seems to sigh in relief and forgiveness. The snow preserved everything beneath its benevolent blanket, protecting it from fifty harsh nights and a hundred heartless days. The soil seems to breathe a sigh of relief. It's finally Spring.

DiggingIn's an annual ritual. No tilling ever extends its influence over a winter.
The insistent soil seems destined to fulfill its destiny as hardpan entropy again, last year's loosening reverted back into history's identity. The garden remembers when it was simply deer meadow, before that former owner opted for an English country garden though the climate hardly encouraged it. Remnants of prior delusions persist in bits of ill-advised root and cradling wires emerging broken and rusted as I pull my hand plow through the soil. I've planted my vanities, too, wrongly considering that the deer would ignore rhubarb and valerian, both of which quickly fell to fawns' lead palates. I built a small fence to protect my tender tenants which now blocks me from casually DiggingIn. I feel like a need a reservation to rejuvenate that protected bed.

I tell my neighbors that I'm trying to turn my yard back into the deer meadow it was before flat landers resettled it, but my story's only about a third true. I still wrestle with each fresh moss bloom and dandelion emergence and still judge my gardener self by my well-ingrained standards. My neighbor has seemingly never sunk a spade into his property, never set out a single sprinkler. He lives atop his soil and alongside it, a state of isolation I could never bear and often berate, but only to myself. His stewardship seems irresponsibly passive, indifferent, as if his soil were not a rich source of rejuvenating life but more of an inconvenience worthy of only neglect. His yard looks fine enough, especially when I mow that part adjacent to mine. Mine looks more finely pruned and greener, though for the six and more months that both yards hibernate beneath shifting snowpacks, they both look exactly the same.

I freely admit that I fulfill my vanity through digging in dirt. The dirt seems more indifferent to me than my neighbor seems to his yard, but I'm not trying to please the soil, simply myself. Turning over soil turns over something inside myself. Call it vanity, I don't care. It feels like sanity to me. After a long winter's night where my hands hardly ever got dirty, even this potentially false sense of Spring reawakens me. The ten day forecast promises only two more tranches of snowfall, though the woman at the garden center predicts they'll just be fleeting wet blankets, freezing nothing and seeping fresh moisture in. Here, the rainfall mostly slips right over the soil. Only snowfall seeps in. The now-under-two-foot backyard snowdrift hardly casts a shadow now that the sun's attained its mid-April angle. Nothing, not even another Mother's Day blizzard, will dissuade this season from making her rounds. I figure it's finally time to engage in some serious DiggingIn.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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