In like a lion, so fierce, and out like a lamb, so dear

I made a joke a couple of weeks ago about playing “Dixie” at the wedding, and it made an auditory ‘thud’ in the room, followed by silence, and I’ve been entirely shamed into not bringing it up again.

But you know what? As Spring approaches, I wish I was in the Land of Cotton.

March is my birth month, which is probably why it makes me so contemplative. It is the best month, in my opinion, to be born in – a time of transition, and growth, a time of turbulence and chaos and choice.

When I was growing up, we kept with the agricultural calendar, for the most part, although many communities and school districts are moving away from that now. It was not uncommon for kids to miss the first two weeks of school for harvest, or another two weeks calving season or when cattle needed branding. Rodeo competition was also an excused absence.

And there is something about this commercialized world, where time seems to pass so swiftly, grains of time just pouring through the hourglass at break-neck speed. We spend so much time in the house, in the car, in offices, in stores, where we’re completely unaware of the month or season or what that means until we see gaudy St. Patrick’s Day crap lining the registers and think, vaguely, “Oh, it’s March,” followed by “I should really start on my taxes.”

Since the weather was nice for the first time in a long time, I planted tulips and daffodils in the flower bed out front today. And I was amazed at the change that came over me. I sat in the flower bed out front, under the sky and the clean air, for two hours this afternoon and talked to all the kids that walk home from the bus stop.

We live in a working class, predominantly black neighborhood – the type where the older women still wear gloves and a matching hat and handbag when they go out. We’re two of a small handful of white folk, and the only young couple on the block.

“What ya doin?” was the constant refrain I heard from the kids walking home.

“Tulips,” I’d call back, and hold up one of the budding bulbs, caked in black soil with the roots growing every which way.

And, inevitably, huge grins would spread across their face and someone would say something like, “That’s cool, missus,” and then they’d go on about their way. A couple even stopped longer and say on the front stoop and talked to me.

“That your truck?” one asked as he eyed my Texas license plates suspiciously.

“Yes,” I said, taking off my gloves and sitting back onto the hill of our garden.

“You really from Texas?” he asked, as if it was Morocco, or Brazil, or Azerbaijan.

“Yep,” I replied. “West Texas.”

“Hmmm,” he said, and then his voice got quiet. “My Daddy is movin’ to Houston. He says there’s work there. Is it nice in Houston?”

I smiled, and gestured for him to hand me a daffodil bulb.

“It’s very nice in Houston,” I said. “It’s near the Piney Woods, and there are lots of trees and water. The Rockets are from there, too,” I added, noting his basketball jersey.

His eight-year old face brightened immediately.

“I know,” he said, matter-of-factly. “My Daddy says that when Mama brings us down, we can maybe see a game.”

We talked a bit more, and then he was on his way, holding his little sisters hand as I watched them disappear with their little blue and pink backpacks down the street.

I talked to the mail man, who many of you may remember me befriending in The Muffin Experiment.

“Got your hands full, I see,” he joked, as he put the mail in the mailbox.

I called out to the old woman across the street, the one who leaves her house every day at 7am to volunteer at the church.

“TULIPS!” I yelled when she waved, holding up a bulb stupidly.

She nodded, and looked at the sky, and then called back in a friendly voice that I imagine as a yellow, cracked piece of antique lace.

“Looks like rain! Be good if you could get them in and then it rain!”

“I know, right?” I said, and she smiled, and got her mail, and went back inside.

We miss so much, being inside, wrapped in our own little lives. As Eustace Conway said, in his infamous lecture of boxes and circles, “You sleep in a box, and you hit a box that makes noise when you wake up in the morning, and you eat out of a box, and you get in a box and drive to work, where you sit in another little box inside a big row of boxes, in a city of boxes, all crammed in together but ultimately alone.”

Planting a garden is important, because it holds us to the change of seasons. It slows down time, simply by making us acknowledge its existence. Gardens, orchards, crops – simple interaction with the earth we came from, and the earth we will return to – keep us in pace with our own mortality.

March can again become a time of planting, not a time of taxes. March is the time when the winds change, and winter and spring fight their annual tug-of-war.

October can again become a time of harvest and preparation, not a time of fake Halloween masks, worn for reasons we have entirely forgotten.

I no longer live in West Texas, where the dirt is dry and dusty, and the winds will knock you over. Instead, the soil here is black, and rich, and veined with thin rivets of clay. Things can put down roots and grow here, instead of clinging to the parched earth for dear life.

Gardens keep us honest. And I am so thankful for mine.

One Response to “In like a lion, so fierce, and out like a lamb, so dear”
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  1. […] Well, lady, neither do I. I don’t know what you do, but I work 60 hours a week, in a job that requires me to have a vibrant social life, whether I like it or not. It’s exhausting. And a garden recharges me. As I’ve stated before, it keeps me honest. […]

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