Spring gleanings

50-something woman in an old t-shirt and gardening hat, smiling, with trees blooming in the background

This week, the sun finally returned, and it was glorious. I spent three mornings in a row working in our yard, reveling in the glory that is morning gardening on a mild, sunny day: getting my hands in the dirt, feeling sweat trickle down the small of my back, knowing that at night my body is going to be the right kind of tired.

I spent the first morning releasing root-bound plants from their pots. They reminded me of my life before. Before this marriage, this home, days filled with this kind of work. After freeing the plants from their clay prisons, I put them directly into the ground, where their roots will have room to roam, to weave themselves into soil I have amended with compost. Isn’t it funny how garbage and shit is a thing that can help flowers grow taller and bloom brighter, filling in their leggy stems with glossy leaves?

A collection of unplanted flower starts, grouped together in a box from the nursery

This weekend Cane and I celebrated our second anniversary. That seems a silly milestone, a pittance of time, a meaningless marker in the story we’re living. We have known each other for more than 20 years, and I don’t know how to measure our time together, how to measure us. There have been so many iterations and mutations of us. I cannot remember when I first met him and cannot say when we first became a couple. I mean, I can give you a year, but the line of crossing over from one thing to the other was fuzzy, and now drawn so long ago that it’s become quite faded. Even I can’t see it clearly. Years after that, there were the years we weren’t a couple but were still friends. Still loved each other. We were each still the person the other called when they really needed a person. Later, we became a couple again, but again I cannot give you a date that a line was crossed. It was something we grew back into tentatively. With all that, we were not legally married until two years ago. I want to say that, perhaps, an anniversary is about a lack of fuzziness–that it the marker of a clear line between one state of togetherness and another–but, even after we crossed that line we did not live together as husband and wife. That did not happen until several months after we became husband and wife.

So, the official anniversary seems a bit of a contrivance, but we marked it anyway. It was a good excuse to treat ourselves to our favorite things: walks, naps, good food, long talks, gardening, time at home together.

The traditional second anniversary gift is cotton, which brings to mind bed linens or fine stationery. We decided to buy ourselves plants for the garden. Close enough, we think. Cotton is a plant growing in the ground before we transform it to meet our needs. We bought herbs, strawberries, native perennials, and annuals: flavor, sustenance, longevity, and bright, fleeting color.

Dark, mossy cement patio with curving light lines left from a power-washer

Friday was one of my favorite days of the year: Power-washing day. Every spring there is a day when we bring the power-washer out to clean the backyard patio and sidewalk, and this year it was Friday, the third day in a row of morning gardening.

For some reason, this year, before I began, I told myself that maybe the patio didn’t even need washing. It didn’t look very dirty. Maybe just in a few spots. Then I began, and I could see how wrong I’d been.

This is the thing I love about white space: How it helps us see. It’s only when I create white space on the patio that I can fully appreciate the story winter has written on our home. As I twirled the water nozzle over the concrete canvas, making designs, I thought about all the things for which white space is essential: poems, graphic design, architecture. A garden, a marriage, a life. I thought about how, sometimes, I love white space for what it reveals, for what it shines a light on, and other times I love it for itself. There are times when the clear blank space–not the dark matter it weaves itself through–is the thing of beauty, is the art, is the point of it all.

Sun setting on a lush, spring-time garden

12 thoughts on “Spring gleanings

  1. Marian says:

    Congratulations to both of you on your anniversary, Rita, but also on managing to be there for each other through thick and thin for so many more years than that official number indicates. That you two get to have this happy ending/beginning is just wonderful to see, and I couldn’t be happier for you. 🙂

    Your row of tulips is lovely. You’re ahead of us by a week or two, I think—things are just now properly greening up here. I’m looking forward to getting out into the garden, and to the greenhouse as well to pick up veggie plants and a few more native perennials. Before we had children, I was a bit obsessed by houseplants (the outdoor gardening hadn’t happened yet), and I’m hoping that if I once again start seriously tending my plants (it’s been a bit Darwinian around here for the past couple of decades), I’ll perhaps feel slightly less bereft when my youngest goes off to university in the fall.

    • Rita says:

      Your Darwinian comment made me smile, and I totally understand. I had quite a few houseplants before I had my children, and then they slowly began dying. I remember consciously deciding, at one point, to let the rest of them wither. I could not care for two babies, a middle-schooler, and all those plants. It wasn’t so much survival of the fittest as survival of the neediest. Or maybe survival of the unfittest (me). I sacrificed the plants for me. 🙂 So, I think it makes sense for you think of returning to houseplants once your youngest goes off to school. I have quite a few again. I don’t know that they will lessen how bereft you’ll feel, but they will be something good to have alongside it. More both/and than either/or.

      Thank you for the congratulations. I’m pretty happy about how it’s all turned out myself.

  2. Ally Bean says:

    Congrats on your, if not an anniversary per se, then a nod to coupling. I like how you understand the various iterations of yourselves as a couple. That seems healthy to me, not getting stuck in one limited way to define yourselves. Also, cotton is nice, practical. I’m smiling about your idea of a Powerwashing Day. I, too, look forward to one each spring, but alas ours has not yet arrived. It’s too cold to be messing with water outside.

    • Rita says:

      Isn’t power-washing just the best? So, so satisfying. I hope you get yours soon. 🙂
      I would say that once I was able to let go of ideas I had about what being a couple should mean, I was able to get to a place of being able to appreciate the kind of couple we were able to be. I sure wish that the culture of my youth had included more diverse depictions of coupledom. (couplehood? whatever.)

  3. Kate says:

    To use vernacular that my kids’ tell me is passé – the loops made by the power washer are so satisfying. Power washing is satisfying. I’m looking forward to the summer weekend where Abe and I take turns getting the lake raft ready – it has these little quarter inch squares and cleaning the grooves between them is a joy.

    Congrats to you and Cane. Two years of marriage may not come close to encapsulating the entirety of your relationship, but I like that you chose to celebrate with some favorite things.

    The picture of you is my favorite in this post (though all are lovely). You look happy and well and I’m glad you’ve been able to enjoy spring. Ours is cold (though rumor has it that it’s warming up) and wet so I’m living vicariously through your tulips.

    • Rita says:

      I think most things about me are passé, so…*shoulder shrug* 🙂 I totally get your groove-cleaning joy. I love concrete, easy-to-see results. I think I love power-washing because it is so magical. It’s just water. Water with force. But still, just water. I love that.

      Thank you for the congrats and the nice words about my selfie. I enjoyed the hell out of last week, our first run of warm weather. It had been such a long, wet, cold spring until then. We are headed back to more rain/cold starting tomorrow. I’m OK with it, though. I’ve got some inside things I need to get to after spending every possible moment outside for a week. I hope you get some soon, too.

  4. Kari says:

    In my feed, I’m seeing more pictures of the people who write the blogs. This makes me so happy. Seeing your face in this post also made me so happy.

    Happy anniversary to you both. One of my favorite ways to spend time with my partner is in the garden.

    PS- I could watch power washing videos all day.

    • Rita says:

      You inspired my garden selfie, you know. I thought of you when I was taking the picture. Usually I don’t put myself in the photo, but I thought of how much I’ve enjoyed seeing your photos of yourself.

      And I forgot to say this when I left a comment on your recent post, but I just LOVED that tiktok with the older woman talking about menopause. I think she is 100% spot-on, and I can see it in your photos.

  5. TD says:

    I would love to hear your examples of white space of your marriage Rita! I too love white space and value it everywhere.

    • Rita says:

      What a thought-provoking request! I hadn’t really thought about what the white space in a marriage is. I guess it’s time spent apart. It’s having your own pursuits. Having different friends. I think all of those things are so important for a relationship. It’s part of what makes things interesting when you come back together.

  6. TD says:

    That’s a great example, Rita! I think of the white spaces in marriage as that time in bed right before drifting off into sleep when lying side by side in the quiet or that time at having dinner together that you both are so much in that comfort zone of quiet and nothing needs to be said. For me white space represents the quiet area. Hmmm interesting you went to the time apart. I hadn’t thought of that but that’s true also.

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