I ordered my seeds last week. Shout out to Comstock Ferre for sending the ones I ordered from them so quickly. It warms a heart to imagine what will be, and the effort of imagining is somehow easier with the bumpy packets of potential in one’s hot little hands.
No doubt such fantasizing about the coming season infused my thoughts about “he-of-the-bird-doors.” If you’ve read a few of these posts, you may remember that Barbara and I are undertaking a supremely fun art-science exploration of a meadow in Carlisle, MA. And in the middle of that meadow sits a very old home. And in one of the outbuildings adjoining that home are a set of doors that used to be in the house. I think there are eleven of them. The doors are covered with lists of birds–the first arrivals each year for all the species the writer spotted. Spring and fall, he noted the various birds. The two doors below show a small sample from the decades-long record he created.
It seems no outside concerns intruded on this naturalist’s life, for the lists are as long during war years as during calmer times. Or perhaps such careful attention was a balm for him. At any rate, the chronicling of the birds clearly dominated his life; the list claims the middle of each door, with any other information relegated to the margins, quite literally. Even at this scale, you can see that those peripheral notes compose a far smaller set. An occasional snow storm is recorded, a particularly momentous family event, a cause for sorrow. And also, with the same faithfulness that he gave to the birds, he recorded the arrival each spring of the first asparagus.
I get that. Asparagus is not my bellwether. If I had to choose, I guess I’d say that rhubarb is. Though now we’ve a witch hazel, so perhaps that will be the assuring sign. Nonetheless, I can certainly see why asparagus would be someone’s. And so, with a tip of the hat to he-of-the-bird-doors, I offer this promise that spring will, in fact, eventually arrive:
Amid the litany of birds,
a single garden note each year,
tucked between his penciled chronicles
of avian attention:
“asparagus, Apr. 28″
or “1st asparagus, May 3rd.”
I picture him peering at
the unkempt bed, brushing away
errant strands of moldering hay
hoping to find dogged, knobbed tips
puckering the untilled loam.
A day hence, or two at most,
faintly purpled stalks will follow,
erect despite the chilly nights.
He well knows how quickly they thicken
to record-worthy readiness,
into the notes of his mellow-
throated rhapsody to spring.