Searching for a Sign

Despite the chilly weather and the wet soil, I went out to walk around the gardens today. The way I wander out there–standing for long moments staring at the new weedy growth or the grain of the soil reminds me of the way old men stare at water.

Have you seen them? My father used to do this–in the mornings and evenings, he’d light his pipe and stand motionless above his carefully-dammed trout pond, sweet smoke gathering in a cloud around his head. I’ve seen it at the river too–the old men who park and stare at the water moving by for a few minutes or even an hour, then turn the ignition and go.

What are they looking for in the water? But then, they are not looking, from the looks of them. They are seeing something beyond the swaying of the reeds and the purling of the surface-scum.

I imagine they are spooling out their memories like a fisherman’s line–watching them flow away into a past they cannot rejoin. Their eyes are a glaze–their pleasures and pains ride the currents and leave them with a kind of nothingness that feels like peace.

spring garlic patch

Today, I spent a little time just wandering and thinking. I was looking for signs of crop germination that I knew I would not find. I nibbled on the frost-tinged leaves of the arugula plants for a taste of what’s to come, and I decided to dig a little more spring garlic.

The spring garlic patch above is a kind of informal thing Harry put in a couple years ago. It may look like a grassy clump, but the point is not to harvest fat bulbs of garlic–the point is to have a patch of little bulbs we can dig whenever we want.

At this time of the year, with green things in short supply, I am sated a little by grubbing out a few of these spicy plants to make the dregs of the winter pantry a little less dreary.

spring garlic on fork

While I do have a few crocuses blooming (finally!) here at home, the best sign of spring, to me, is one you can eat. Now to fish out the last of the basil cubes and dried tomatoes and make some cheer in the kitchen for this dreary day.


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