Of Grace and Hellebores


This climate is not the one of my childhood. Even after thirty years dug into these New Hampshire hills, I remain startled by the intensity of the transitions from season to season. Spring was more mellow in the southern New England climate of my childhood. Spring was a lingering parade of happenings. Each day from late February to May was marked by a new arrival be it velvety Pussywillows or outrageous Forsythias or steadfast Lilacs.

Here, all the guests appear to arrive at once. When the weather makes its annual abrupt turn from bitter winter to near summer, the place goes from moribund to mayhem in… well… three shakes of a lamb’s tale, maybe two.

One day this week, the last snow pile, snugged up against the cold north wall of the bottling room, dissolved into a sullen gray mass. The next day, in the face of temperatures floating into the seventies, it was gone. Only last week, it felt daring for the Daffodils to poke their foliage above ground. Today they are blooming in great waves across the gardens.

But like the more leisurely parade of my childhood Springs, this Northern New England full throttle greening is best savored in lingering moments. Knowing that SLOWING DOWN is the best way to savor Spring and also beginning to actually LIVE this way is the grace of gardening in my fifties, as opposed to gardening in my twenties, thirties, or forties.

Then I was one with the whirlwind. Now, not so much.

Yes, I still need that memo to self, but surprisingly, not as much as I needed it, even last year.

As I begin to spend more time each day in the gardens, I am surprised how happy I am to move slowly and do less, to pick the smaller tool for the job not the speediest, or to feel contentment with what is versus what could be. This is new territory to me, but I like it.

I appreciate that the gardens can flourish with this lighter touch, because of the wild enthusiasm of my earlier decades with my ambitious plantings of six zillion plants sunk in multiple tons of compost and manure. I am grateful to gung-ho Molly of old, but I am also happy not to be her anymore.

Sometimes the speed and scope of my efforts in early years weren’t just about loving every Flower I met, but also reflected a sort of perfectionism. I saw garden problems where perhaps there were just pauses in between acts. I went into overdrive to resolve what I saw as flaws in the garden designs instead of maybe just taking a time out myself. Now I get to enjoy the fruits of all this frenzied activity. I feel for my younger self both gratitude and compassion that she worried so much. The gardens turned out so much better than I imagined possible.

These days, I can’t even remember what was bothering me then. There is so much beauty. Most mornings find me in a sweet, slow ramble, looking at each moment unfolding in the gardens with such simple gladness and delight. Grace surprises us in its forms. This contentment is a big piece of unexpected grace.

As is the arrival of the Hellebores. Just a few days ago they lay flat to the earth in a sort of tired looking heap of last year’s foliage. Now their Angel leaves and Flowers rise up expressing and sharing the pure joy of being. And I answer, yes, being is enough, more than enough.

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