Blowin’ In: Flowers of Spring
By Susan Mangan
“The spring is coming by a many signs:
The trays are up, the hedges broken down . . .
And where sun peeps, in every sheltered place
The early buttercups unfold . .
The edges of the blackthorn clumps in gold.”
– “Young Lambs” by John Clare
As winter melts into spring, shadows change with the light. Hope in the guise of violet crocuses and laughing daffodils emerges from the darkness. Vulnerable shoots of new asparagus timidly shoulder their way through layers of autumn detritus.
Birds usher in the dawn with confident song. Creatures great and small know that the world is opening up to a new day.
Born in May, I am a child of spring. Growing up in Chicago, we did not have sweeping suburban lawns or landscaped vistas, but apple blossom trees did dot the small green spaces of our stout brick bungalows. Many of our neighbors grew efficient urban gardens utilizing the narrow plots of land between garages. In summer, fronds of dill would sway in the heat and Italian plum tomatoes would trail up the grids of chain link fencing.
I enjoyed growing flowers. My mother would buy me tulip and daffodil bulbs each fall; I planted them beneath the heavy yew evergreens that flanked our home. Inevitably, only one or two flowers would bloom in early April, as sunshine could not penetrate the heavy shrubs planted for privacy rather than beauty. Nevertheless, with the joyful spirit of a child, I continued to spread zinnia seeds in summer and stayed hopeful that lush blooms would grow.
When my children were small, we spent spring days playing at the park or walking through the nature trails in Huntington Woods. I taught them the names of flowers and trees. As children, they were receptive students.
Now, I am not certain that they would know the difference between a ditch lily and a rose. Still, like that spring child from Chicago, I continue to plant seeds and hope that they will blossom.
My three children have grown like a field of early spring dandelions. Each day they turn their faces to the sun with strength and confidence, even in the wake of disappointment or challenge. My youngest child is graduating from high school this May and my oldest is graduating from college.
I reflect on the years that have passed more quickly than the fleeting blooms of a magnolia tree. Though they are, all three, on the cusp of adulthood, the fragrance of their youth is present during this bittersweet spring.
Recently, I have been pouring over pictures of our many family holidays. How I treasure the time when my mother and her sister met our family in Ireland. In company with two grandmothers and many great-aunts, the children spent precious weeks collecting bouquets of wildflowers and sat among blooms of pale butterwort near the shores of Keem Beach.
While the wild thyme danced, the sea air cast a cool breeze over my daughter’s bare arms raising flocks of goose bumps and shrill cries of laughter. Sitting side by side on a perfectly smooth rock, my mother pulled a fleece blanket around my daughter’s arms and cuddled her as if the moment would never end.
Over the years, I have watched my sons leap through fields of Irish furze and heather, while they followed their father on a tour of his native soil. During quiet times, the children and their cousins laid bouquets of flowers at the shrine of the Virgin Mary in their grandmother’s [w pic 4] childhood village. She pointed out the country names of familiar blooms; beautiful purple and pink delphiniums were called “fairy’s fingers.”
My mother-in-law told us how as little children walking through the fields, they would spy the lovely flowers and put the bells of the blossoms atop each of their ten fingers. Nature provides games as well as a touch of magic.
Gathering the Turf
Through the years we continued to travel to Ireland. As teenagers, the boys worked together gathering turf beneath an unusually sweltering summer sun. Tired and hungry, they ate fresh ham sandwiches and toasted their hard work with cups of tea.
I doubt they were trolling for different varieties of wildflowers during their work, but rather spent most of their time avoiding the stinging nettles that lined the field fencing. Together, the boys learned about their culture while making priceless memories that would last forever.
The years have passed like kaleidoscope portraits, morphing into new images of dreams and realities that will unfold like the spring before us. Inevitably, darkness turns into light. Yet, despite the hour or season, some flowers tilt toward the moon and others toward the sun.
*Susan holds a Master’s Degree in English from John Carroll University and a Master’s Degree in Education from Baldwin-Wallace University. She may be contacted at [email protected].