Coming Back To Life

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Spring is here a whole month early. Like many other locations it’s been a warm winter. Some one told me they found a tick on their dog yesterday. We’ve had several near 80 degree days, but mostly the warmest have been in the low 70’s.

Forsythia and magnolias are blooming, along with pears and cherry trees. The last two nights have been well below freezing and there was an article in the paper about how this freeze may effect the peach harvest here in Virginia. Local growers are using fans to keep the air moving around their orchards, but they admit there’s little they can do except pray since climate change is here to stay. I can’t imagine a summer without the sweet juice of peaches running down my arms as I consume them nonstop. Peaches are the best thing about the warmest months and I look forward to them all winter long.

My hellebores are blooming spectacularly this spring. On these frosty mornings they sometimes keel over looking like they’re dead, but once the sun is up and warms the air a bit, they stand taller than ever. They are one of my favorites because they bring color to the garden in February when I need a sign that winter is almost over. At this time of year I do a quick garden tour every day to see which plants are slowly rising above the thick layer of mulch that was put down last month. Orange breasted male robins are fighting over females and on my early morning walks the air is filled with birdsong that brings me joy. Tis the season of rebirth.

On my afternoon walk yesterday afternoon I noticed that someone in the neighborhood had tapped one of their maple trees hoping to gather enough sap to boil down for maple syrup. My brother Reid, now deceased, used to tap a grove of maples in New Hampshire every year when the days warmed above freezing and the nights brought freezing temperatures. He boiled the sap down in large pans over an open fire, coming indoors at the end of the day smelling of fresh air and wood smoke. My pantry was always filled with mason jars of his maple syrup. One year he supplied me with so much that I put it in the freezer thinking it would last longer that way. This past fall I used the last of the pint jars of his amber gold and when it got down to the last quarter of a cup, I wanted to tuck it back in the freezer as a way to keep him near me. Reid has been gone now for seven years. I felt that if I used the last of his gift up, he would be gone for good. But then I made a batch of buckwheat pancakes and used it up, knowing that if I carry him in my heart he’d be with me forever. Those last few drops were a celebration of his life.

Along with the plants, I’m coming to life again too. My burn out is easing and I’m longing to be out in the garden every day. I found myself writing a poem last week for the first time in years. I’m thrilled to be at it again, adding to my series of poems about Mrs. Heartwell, who is part me and every other woman in the world. She’s vulnerable, brave, strong, sensitive, and filled with love. I plan on working on this collection about her that I started almost twelve years ago and make it into a chapbook some day. I may start sharing a few from time to time but for now am sending out some of the series to see if I can get them published in a literary journal or two. Although I enjoyed writing my memoir and using well constructed sentences, I absolutely adore using words sparingly to paint short writings that are free of garble, yet full of power.

Do you find yourself coming back to life at this time of year?


  1. Oh Joan, I love this post. Winter is hanging on here and I long for warmer days to go outside and dig in the dirt. Your words and photos remind me that spring is coming….in good time.

  2. Joan Rough says:

    Linda, I’ve been reading your posts and feeling your winter blues. I used to live in Northern Vermont and spring was one of those things I didn’t believe would ever come in the midst of darkness and snow. I hope you’ll see signs of the changing seasons soon. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  3. Joan — I love your ingenious approach: “Mrs. Heartwell, who is part me and every other woman in the world.”

  4. Joan Rough says:

    Thanks, Laurie. She is “every woman” who has lived, breathed, and had feelings! I can’t wait to introduce her to you!

  5. Although I relished all the references to spring, the most exciting one was the announcement that you are sounding the beat for your Mrs. Heartwell poetry collection.

  6. Joan Rough says:

    Thanks, Marian. I’m very excited about getting back to her!

  7. Francine Brady says:

    I love her name, “Heartwell”
    My favorite Spring poem is “o sweet spontaneous earth.” by e.e. cummings.

  8. This is such an energizing and inspiring time of year for me too Joan! Our Spring is about to spring around here (Outside of Philadelphia)
    May you grow and enjoy the upcoming season!

    • Val, thanks so much for your kind wishes. I doubt your spring is far behind ours and hope you will enjoy every bloom and new leaf that stretches out to greet you!

  9. I love the sound of your Mrs. Heartwell poems, Joan! What a great name for a character. Amazingly, we haven’t had much of a winter here in the Chicago area this year, so spring almost seems too early! That said, I do love seeing the signs of life and hearing the bird songs especially. Great post!

    • Thank you, Jill. I’ve heard about your crazy winter with no snow in 2 months. Maybe Mrs. Heartwell will have something to say about climate change!

  10. What a lovely post! Happy spring to you, as we go into autumn here in Australia. 🙂

  11. So good to hear from you, Linda. I hope your weather isn’t as crazy as has been on this side of equator, but I’m thinking it probably is. Happy fall to you and enjoy every minute!

  12. Such a lovely post, Joan. Any reminder of spring is like a breath of fresh air. We’re far from spring in the northeast but even the hint of it gives me hope. Happy Springtime! And I absolutely adore the idea behind your Mrs. Heartwell poems.

  13. Joan Rough says:

    Thanks, Kathy. Oh I remember the years I lived in Vermont and spring never seemed to want to come. I’m sure you’ll see signs of it soon and be out enjoying the garden growing tall around you.

  14. There’s been plenty of fretting about unusually warm temperatures in upstate NY with fears that fruit growers would lose their crop a second year in a row. Now we’re having a prolonged Canadian blast with coldest temperatures of the winter. My son in NC is watching all his fruit and flowers take a hit, so I hope you aren’t suffering the same. Here, there is relief (along with whining) because the cold will put the plants on hold. I did lots of pruning this week and saw that trumpet vines and autumn clematis had tiny green leaves. It was 4 degrees last night, so those took a hit, but those plants will try again, along with the snowdrops that bloomed. I wish our reps in DC would understand how near we are to climate disaster.

    • Joan Rough says:

      We are supposed to get a mix of rain, snow, freezing rain tonight. While part of me whines about it, we are in the early stages of drought and need everything we can get, so I don’t take my whining seriously. Whatever we get will benefit even if some of the plants take a hit because of the cold. My Hellebores and daffodils love the snow, so no problem there. We have not had the cold you folks have been experiencing.