The Rites of Spring
An ode to our springtime gardens
Now again is the time. The time to pull out those threadbare blue jeans, to gather your tools, to roll up your shirtsleeves—to spend Saturday afternoons knuckles-deep in dirt. As the biting cold of winter gives way to the lukewarm winds of spring, in blows the feeling of fresh starts. The air suddenly smells intoxicatingly ripe with possibility.
For gardeners, this is the time to rid yourself of last year’s failures. All is forgiven as we pick through those little paper envelopes covered in colorful illustrations of vegetables, filled with tiny, determined seeds. It takes practice and luck, in equal measure, to become a decent gardener. None of us are truly born with green thumbs; Mother Nature always has the final say. But after enough time and patience—after all the weeds and dead leaves, the blisters and backaches—you will wake one still-chilly morning and walk outside to find that little plot of land blanketed in green.
The light will cast dappled shadows across the tilled terrain, and there, without much fanfare, fluffy heads of lettuce—first the bitter, then the butter—will poke through the soil, all glistening with dew. Feathery fronds of carrots will billow in the breeze. Last year’s leeks will gain new girth. Soon enough, there might even be strawberries.
From the pull of a rake to the plunge of a spade, the garden’s rituals will become old habits—second nature. But each year, as the hardy tastes of winter are replaced by the bright, clean flavors of spring, the first moments of this fleeting season still seem impossibly new. When you pluck a few fat radishes to be sliced and served with salt and butter, or cut a spiky head of frisée to be sprinkled with vinaigrette and Roquefort cheese, it is like eating your very first vegetable. It tastes like the sun’s warmth, and the long-lost days of summer that lie ahead.
With that first bite, the ice thaws and the flowers bloom. The world opens up again as the light, sweet, luminous harvest gives your palate a perennial chance to start anew. And that’s why you’ll come back to the garden, month after month, year after year. Because everything seems possible.
Like you becoming a decent gardener. Like one day, you might even be great.