I was “handicapped” for much of the first half of the year 2009 with incessant hip pain. When the class was given the assignment to “walk for half an hour once a week and write for half an hour” for a 5-week duration, during the rainiest, coldest spring in years, I protested; loudly and with unladylike language. Fortunately, I soon calmed down and was able to articulate both my dismay at being unable to do the assignment and an alternative so I could fulfill the spirit of the assignment.

I proposed to look out my windows at the yard I love but have not been able to be in for almost a year (hip pain), once a day, and write for ten minutes each day on what was happening in the yard. I managed to do this most days for several weeks, writing down what impressed me for that day. Occasionally I wrote in more general terms, or was interested in something that happened away from home. And there were a few days I didn’t write at all, because I was working on other projects.

It was a difficult discipline, but good. What comes next is the journal I kept. It came to six pages, 12 pt font.

Journal of Home: Reflections on Place and Purpose

April 2009

On the first of April, it snowed in the morning, not enough to stay home, not enough to make the paths or roads slippery, but enough to send a note of despair for those of us who so long for the sun and the warm to return. The garden, in the sheltered low spot down by the road sank deeper into the bog. The trillium, the red-flowering currant, the daffodils, even the red cedar, seemed to slump in place, turning inward against the cold.

On the second of April, it was gray, it was windy. The tops of the trees whipped back and forth, and sent a howling to those of us below, sheltered inside or under… the dog was restless. The dark day hung in place, and dragged on, but the soggy plants remained, resolute, determined. And in the evening, a moment of sun – the light sprang out and revealed that the land was still there, that

On the third of April, the clouds moved in the sky – tall, strong and proud, they swept the skies. The trees, tall and proud in their own right, held them back, tickling the undersides until they began to drift away. The frogs sang in the wet places, the raccoons waddled along the roads. The red-flowering currant bloomed at last, waving gaily at the trillium hidden under the sword ferns in the wooded places. Indian plums, here and there, nodded and danced. Willows shook their fuzzy paws at passers-by and salmonberries made bright exclamations at the edges of forest and field.

On the fourth of April, the sun shone fierce and bold, fluorescent in the morning sky, holding up the bright streamers of retreating clouds… the wisps of mist (or was it smoke) hovering in low-lying spots and trailing through the trunks of firs in the woodlots were gentler than the layer of frost that clung tightly to windows and doors in the early morning. Animals and people scurried and huddled, conserving what warmth they retained from their beds. The daffodils, perhaps not so chilled because of the blanket of leaves still on the ground, danced and curtsied to each other under the pregnant tips of fruit trees. As the blossoms warmed in the afternoon, ruby-throated hummers dove, chattered and fought over the prime nectar-delivering pendants sending out sweet beckons.

On the fifth of April, the humidity dropped, the temperature rose and the sun basked in the adoration of the awakening of the denizens of earth… he shone, they glowed.

[Here, the writer was called away and was unable to return for a couple days. In that time, blueberries were transplanted, the days were warm and light, hummingbirds and eagles thrummed or soared, and daffodils reflected the sunlight from the lawn. But the writer was confined inside for work and classes… ]

On the seventh of April, the clouds gathered thicker and thicker, the day started slowly as if reluctant to wake from its dreams of summer. The birds were silent, only the persistent buzzing of hummingbirds at the currants and the occasional tap-tap of a sapsucker sounding for insects on cedar trees in the back yard. Even the little green frogs, that for days had chorused strong and bold, now croaked only occasionally, a lonely post-script as if calling farewell to spring.

On the eighth of April, a red huckleberry beckoned at the side of a path as the writer hurried from class to class, delicately timid bracts atop fresh green leaves. A pause, a moment of reflection and contemplation, consideration of pies to come. Overcast, and cooling, an occasional willy-waw on the water, by evening the air had regained its moisture and lowered a blanket once again over the land. Tender trees and shrubs huddled together and plotted their revenge against threatened frost.

On the ninth of April, a visit to a museum, a chance to look and touch and hear something of the world around, the history, the life, the legends. Native peoples – who really came from somewhere else – had left their imprints on the land, foreigners – who came to stay and put down deep roots of their own – had left their imprints too; and the peoples melded and merged or met halfway and mingled… and the animals kept doing their animal things. And the plants kept doing their plant things. Outside the museum, mahonia bloomed tall and strong and protective, and the welcome poles looked on.

On the tenth of April, the house was quiet, and books were read. Papers began to be written, while clouds gathered closer, waiting for the signal. Hummingbirds, trillium, daffodils. The usual suspects. No red squirrels yet. The younger child returned home from a trip, and cookies were baked with love… by his brother.

On the eleventh of April, we slept in. And then lazed around. Sometime in the middle of the afternoon, a burst of industry led to more reading and more writing. Games were played, conversations begun (and ended), and a comfortable, homey feeling enveloped the family. Outside, it was grey, a little cool, and clouds gathered even closer. No sun broke through, no wind stirred the trees. Oppressive waiting.

On the twelfth of April, it rained. And it rained. It rained hard, it rained gently, it rained constantly. The bog by the road filled with rain, it washed the newly-planted blueberries, it seeped behind gutters and came dripping down the sides of the house. The plum tree, its white blossoms catching every drop, sodden, soggy, stood in its place not far from daffodils huddled together under a stand of alder. The ground squished underfoot and no birds flew. It rained. Beyond the rain? More rain. And then… soggy white rain?

On the thirteenth of April, it snowed, late at night. Big, wet, white flakes that smacked on the roof and skylights and car windows, that chilled walkers and bike riders, and made cars fog up before the engines were started. It didn’t stick, but as it fell, the lights along the road highlighted shrubs, and grasses, spooky reminders of the promised, but reluctant, vernal season.

On the fourteenth of April, the sun broke through the clouds again, making the morning bright. Through the day, it played among fluffy clouds, wispy contrails, and admired itself. Far to the east, the northwest, the south, clouds rose on thick pediments, but overhead, only a brief dimming of the solar orb. The trillium in the cedar grove bobbed and waved behind the ferns, more this year than last, and pointed up at the maple tree flowering at last, the pagoda-like blossoms dangling like bait…

On the fifteenth of April, again the sun broke through. Cold morning, clear skies, a few high clouds seen from the house, and birdsong. Gorgeous trills and peeps, chirps and snippets of melody. A red-breasted sapsucker returned to his favorite cedar and set up the rhythm. And the grasses, wet with dew, swayed like a chorus line, waiting for their cue. The yellow Japanese kerria, arching long tendrils over the ferns under the chestnut tree, began to reveal its golden blooms, bright enough in the sun, a long-awaited bit of joy for future gray days.

On the sixteenth of April, the sun shone, the clouds rolled by, alternating like waves of dancers on a stage. The bright yellow tulips, finally open on the mound, brightened the view from the window. Stuck inside again, venturing out only when the mercurial clouds shaded the bright orb, I noticed the grass by the house was knee-high with its share of golden dandelions adding a bit of color. The house looks more yellow when it has bright things next to it. Last night, I saw a mouse – or was it a rat? Out by the back door, but no sign of activity today. Was it just passing through? Scouting territory? On a hunting expedition from a cozy nest under the house? The dog’s curious nose didn’t detect anything, and I didn’t try to encourage tracking. I am not worried about a lone rodent. But if I see another, we’ll need to investigate.

On the seventeenth of April, pain filtered awareness. Exhaustion lay at my feet, crowding closer than the dog. The clouds parted, coalesced, regained strength and allowed some filtered light through. In between the large, heavy raindrops.

On the eighteenth of April, fog. Mist in the trees. Again. Yellow flowers of various types, white trilliums now fading to pink and purple, salmonberries! I spy the first dangling, earring-like bells of the salmonberry flowers. The white tulips, an unexpected gift from last spring appear by the side of the front door. Bright pink and white schizanthus still in the pot from the store frame the other side of the steps. Everything is fresh as the sun begins to shine, the earth warms and the air grows dim – a mist rises again, filling the sky with puffs, streaks and haze.

On the nineteenth of April, sun. Sun in the morning, sun in the noontime, sun. All day long. And it was warm… The hummingbirds couldn’t get enough of the sweet nectar in the now-fading red-flowering currant bushes, and started casting around for other sources of life. The hum of the birds was repeated in the hum of lawnmowers. The last of the foot-high grasses were mown down in swaths throughout the neighborhood, drowning out temporarily the sounds of the birds as they called to mates and potential mates. Sun. and warm. And dry. The trees stand tall, quiet, watching and waiting. We relax. It is sun-day.

On the twentieth of April, sun again. The gooseberries in the pot by the door are blooming, creamy-white centers with ruby bracts. The willow by the back door, yellow back, blue-green leaves, mustard-yellow blooms held erect. The birds, the frogs. All so happy to be alive, all so bright.

On the twenty-first of April, spring is still here. The birds call back and forth in the trees, tee-hee-hee says one, and brrrrt! brrrrt! hollers another. A hawk in the distance, and a gull. We move a small fruit tree: Asian Pear Hamesi still looks like a whip, five years after planting. The new soil is too loamy, too thick, but perhaps careful management of the perimeter will allow this little tree to thrive. We’ll just have to try. In the vegetable garden, the plum tree from my grandfather looks healthy in its pot, but will be planted into a permanent location soon. Perhaps along the fence line, to espalier … I have always wanted a Belgian fence around my medieval-modeled garden.

On the twenty-second of April, EARTH DAY. The skies were gray, mostly, and the air was chill, mostly – but the promised rain did not appear. The maple trees’ flowers continued unfolding like accordions hung without the latch done, longer, longer. As the wind pulled them off and tossed them on the ground, they covered the dirt and the fallen logs and the stumps and the walkways and the roads with a lime-green, chartreuse, electric yellow. The wind puffed pollen, coating cars with a yellow haze. The air was thick with the soup of potential new plants, like living in warm waters when the mollusks spawn.

On the twenty-third of April, the sun blazed through the windows early, the birds chattered in the trees. It was warm, the earth responded to the new day with glee. A red squirrel hung on the side of the fir tree, the branch of the bigleaf maple, the trunk of the cedar, chattering back to the birds and to the people and dog who wandered in and out of the house. More bird seed on the stump, and the squirrel disappeared: but the bluejays came. Bright, cocky, yes brazen, Stellar’s Jays with dark black caps and iridescent blue bodies. Like a cardinal, only in blue. And, like a cardinal, a symbol of home. This home.

On the twenty-fourth of April, the sun shone yet again. No rain for the newly-transplanted pear tree, so the hose was attached to the house and dutifully watered… The air was thick still with pollen. The flowers were glowing, the trees stood sentinel. Not much changes, and everything changes. The trillium, fading back into the leaf litter under the ferns already, the bright yellow blooms on the Mahonia sparkling at the dark edges of wooded areas. And flies. Little flies, big flies, dark flies, light flies. They come in, they hover outside, they end their short lives even faster on the windshields of cars. It’s the season of flies. It’s spring.

On the twenty-fifth of April, grey, cold. Drops of moisture splattered and popped against the walls of buidings, the windows, the roofs. Cold, grey, wet. And then, just before suppertime, the sky exploded with light and color The wind picked up, and the trees expressed their delight in semaphore. Leaves began to replace blooms on the early bloomers, and flowers peeked through the leaves of early budders. Elderberries burned white, and pear blossoms, while the plum and cherry blossoms whispered good-bye.

On the twenty-sixth of April, the sun played tag with the clouds. Again. One moment warm, the next cool enough to need an extra sweater. Today, the air was filled with the sound of lawnmowers, of motorbikes, of children playing. Today, the trees, a pointillist’s dream, shifted and blended, now light, now dark, chartreuse against indigo highlighted in gray or brown or blue. Today, life moved slowly, and today that was enough.

On the twenty-seventh of April, run, run, run! The sun came, went, sparkled, dimmed, and flashed back and forth in the sky. No time to stop, no time to rest, no time to enjoy. Trees waves as I brushed past. Flowers ducked as I loped by. The grasses barely noticed my passing, so fleet of foot and crutch or cane did I move. Inside, inside, inside. Everything was inside, but all the beauty lay outside. Loss and gain, pleasure and pain; Balance is my name.

On the twenty-eighth of April, clouds, rain. Cool enough for sweaters, damp enough for a jacket. The grasses growing longer, flowers emerging and fading, the beginning swellings of fruit and nut and seed. Bees, flies, wasps darting back and forth, dizzy from satiety. Birds, hunting and scolding, always wanting more; more food, more fluff for the nest, more attention from the mate. Why then, do they call it a “rat race?”

On the twenty-ninth of April, the sun teased the flowers, then grew large and broad and strode across the sky, and the flowers followed with their gaze, turning, turning, turning. Poetry is not enough to paint this picture, pictures are not intense enough to define it. No, a day like today can only be experienced: big, bold, brilliant. Everything sparkles on a day like today. The pink blossoms on an apple tree, the cream-colored blossoms on a pear, and the pure white one on another pear. Tulips dancing above the still-sleeping dahlias, daffodils bending and turning, little daisies in the grass and everywhere green: buds, leaves, stalks, ferns, lichens, mosses. Everywhere green and bright and growing.

On the thirtieth of April, it started out foggy – cold and grey, but drifting, lifting. Long before noon, the last shreds of cloud vanished, leaving clear, clean skies and bright vegetation. Chickadees played in the willow and cedars near the propane tank, calling to each other (and being echoed by the parakeet indoors – I can always tell when the birds outside are calling, because we hear their songs in a different dialect). A heron glided by, high overhead. Bluejays played in the tall spruce next door. The bright pink wild geraniums began blooming by the driveway sometime in the last couple days – how quickly things change! I can see that half the little mulberry tree, which has never done that well, appears to have died back, there are green tips on only two of the four main branches. The fig tree’s leaves are beginning to unfurl, sparkly chartreuse fronds, uncurling like ferns. The hosta are poking up through the buttercup – those took over so fast; last autumn there were only one or two buttercup in that bed.

On the first of May it was warm, so warm. I was sick in bed, barely able to move. I opened the windows, heard the birds belting out one tune after another, and slept. Nothing heals more than sleeping on a warm, sunny day with the choir of nature’s angels for a lullaby.

On the second of May it is raining off and on, mostly on for the last half hour, a monsoon-type rain, like we had in Puerto Rico when I was a child, or in Virginia. But not warm like those rains… Big, heavy drops, beating down the leaves, the branches, beating into the earth, the roof, beating rolling thumping. It rains hard sometimes, and then sometimes — Sometimes it doesn’t rain much at all. But today the gutters fill up and the rain rolls over the edge because the water pushes, pushes to the downspout, so fast, so hard, too much for the pipe. And the ditches fill up and the waters run over the end of the driveway, seeking the quickest path down, the easiest way back to the Inlet, to the Sound, to the Ocean. The water rolls on, the beat passes by, the clouds lift…

On the third of May, that water finished rolling off the roof. A sapsucker drummed on the side of the house… rattle rattle rattle. And again, rattle rattle rattle. What was it doing? Every year, about this time, the wood-pecking birds find large, resonant logs and structures to announce their territorial boundaries, their readiness to build a nest with “that special somebird” or their joy that the rain is gone. Who knows? I told my child to look outside, but by the time he got there, the bird had flown. The sun came and went, came and went. Rattle rattle rattle from here and there, and the occasional glimpse of undulating flight… the sapsuckers are nesting.

On the fourth of May, the sun came and went again, gray skies in the morning, gardeners took warning. Recovering from a cold, I stayed inside in the morning, occasionally distracted by a lightening in the rooms as the sun peeked through, then, as the shades were drawn, going back to my books. Green, yellow, pink, white, blue… the bluebells by the medlar have been blooming for over a week, I love their cheerful, nodding heads. The dandelions along the house have all gone to seed, fluffy white orbs that remind me of life’s persistence. What could be more delightful than a lawn composed of clover and dandelions? Yellow discs becoming silvery orbs, then solitary parachutes bearing precious cargo… dancing over the bunnies’ favorite snack… Clover and dandelions… and a bit of moss and english daisies for show. Yes, green and bright. I love spring.

On the fifth of May, Rain. And then… more rain. Gray skies, green trees, growing grass, gasping worms prostrate on the sidewalks. The quince trees begin to show pink buds that shake gently in the wind. Briefly, in a break in the rain, the most glorious birdsong. Not a nightingale, which we don’t have in this area, a round dark shape near the top of the crooked cedar, belting out a most melodious call… A Warbler perhaps? Not a bird call I had ever heard before.

On the sixth of May, More Rain. Cold, dark, heavy. More than five inches of total rain since Sunday, by the time the night was old…

On the seventh of May, rain, sun, rain. Then sun, and by the end of the day, abundant rays illuminated rhododendrons, azaleas (purple, pink and white), broom (yellow, cream), tulips (pink, orange, salmon, red, ecru), and countless other plants of endless hue along the byways and highways. Herons glided home gently. There is work to be done, but it is enough for today to appreciate what is doing just fine, all on its own.

On the eighth of May, sun. overcast, sprinkle. The lilac is blooming, the light purple one, the more compact and shrubby one, there at the end of the fish puddle. The other one, a few few away, is blushing deep violet, and will bloom soon. I always look forward to the lilac days, the occasional scent of perfume when the wind shifts just right so it comes toward my window. The lilacs are always still in bloom when my birthday rolls around. Can it be that time of year already?

On the ninth of May, the sun shone bright and the air felt dry. A gentle breeze sprang up once in a while, but the warmth and the light slowed the day down, and made it seem that there was no hurry (though of course there was, two separate activities more than 40 miles apart, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. It is nicer to drive on a sunny day, but still nicer to be home. It would be nice to be home one of these sunny days, to look at the bluebells, listen to the birdsongs,

On the tenth of May, the horn on the water sounded long before the sun began to peel back the thick, warm blanket of fog. Every five minutes, calling for someone, lonely like a heron’s call, but deep as if the heart of the caller might break. Every five minutes, in the distance, sometimes seeming closer: where are you? I am here. — We, snug and warm in bed, listening as we drifted in and out, like the waves on the beach, as the tide ebbed and flowed, as the fog slowly lifted… Is that the sun? And then at once, we realized there were no clouds, no shred of mist remained, just the bright blue sky above dew-bespangled grasses, waiting for appreciation. And a lawnmower.

On the eleventh of May, it dawned slowly. Mercury-laden skies oozed into existence and bumped up against, along, around the trees. The air was still, quiet except the occasional “tee-hee” of a wren. Waiting, expectantly, for something to happen. Pregnant Primavera, full of possibilities, but not yet ready to birth new delights.

On the twelfth of May, the sun shone briefly, then retreated again. Why does it tease us so?

On the thirteenth of May, It RAINED. Again. Long, hard, lasting deluge, not gentle showers, nor even intermittent storms, just a day-long, full-on, torrent. From the car to the house, you got soaked running in the door. Twenty feet, give or take. Even with a raincoat, the few hundred feet from the parking space at the college to the office left me shaking off what excess I could and hoping my clothes would dry before I needed to go out again (they didn’t). No matter, it was a good day for indoor pursuits, leaving me grateful I hadn’t planted potatoes (nor anything else) yet.

On the fourteenth of May, gray skies, wet soil, damp grass. The little red squirrel that is resident in our yard came up to the house, looking for the extra birdseed we put out. He is fat and sassy, and glows in the silvery light today. I wish he would find a mate, so we might have a family here… the red squirrels are so precious, and so rare now. At least I haven’t yet seen a gray squirrel this far out, though they are now the only ones we see at my parents’ house a few miles away.

After this house burned and was replaced, I added a short essay for the new home after we had lived in it for a while. Letter to my home on the importance of children.