To-Do Lists

January 9, 2011

A dusting of snow as I peruse the garden today, frozen so cold in such little particles that it’s like sand that can be swept or brushed away – it feels dry, odd when it is made entirely of water.

There are squirrel prints in the pond.

The lilac bush, a ‘Miss Kim,’ (note the single marks – the proper way to designate a cultivar) is a perfect teaching tool to reinforce some of what I learned in the MG Botany class. I see the terminal buds on new twigs (not shoots or branches!) and then I see more and more terminal buds. I also see many twigs without buds and think this would be a perfect time to prune this back. I see lateral buds and a slew of lenticels, tiny white spots that have microscopic openings to take in and expel gases and water vapor. I cut a twig.

It also occurs to me that, now that I’ve learned about creating a root ball after a woody deciduous has been established, I could conceivably prep this in the spring for transplanting in the fall. We planted it here years ago, before the pin oak grew so large, spreading so far, casting such shade. The lilac has not flowered well in the last few years. I put this on my list of things to do in the spring – cut down into the ground in a broken ring, leaving some roots intact and cutting others to encourage fibrous growth, creating a root ball that should survive transplanting. I can put it along the property line between Gwen and I, where I’ve envisioned a long sun garden for years. Transplanting that one lilac will give me an excuse to make a whole new garden a reality, a big project for next year.

The rain barrel outside of my office is terribly skewed; it seems to be sliding into that hole we’re trying to fill with compost. That will have to be moved, evened, supported and resited in the spring. With the toe of my booth, I push compost material into the hole and then step on it to pack it down. The rain barrel on the side of the house will need help too, as we seem to have put it about 6″ too far to the left and the gutter never sits on it properly.

The pin oak is finally losing its leaves.

Many things are still green in the garden (Greg urged us to appreciate that “there’s still alot going on out there right now” – a textbook example of preaching to the choir). The bellflower is still clean and green and crisp and fresh. The coral bells are the same. I wonder why this is, as from what we learned in class, these plants should be winter annuals, but they are perennials. Perhaps evergreen perennials? I shall learn soon if there is such a thing.

The flagstone path is becoming more and more uneven, heaving in places. We will have to have sand delivered and pull out each stone, line the bottom with fresh sand and place it again, another task for spring. That list is growing longer and longer.

As I make a photograph in the butterfly bed, I accidentally break a milkweed pod from its stem. The stem is completely dry and the milkweed bud cracks in my hand like an eggshell, with an interior lined with a brittle paper-like shell. The seeds begin to stick to my gloves and I drop the pod into the bed, brushing the seeds into the air.

I take the twig inside and pull out a cutting board, select a sharp knife and begin to shave back the covering on those terminal buds. I’m hoping to see those purple flowers, tiny and sweet. I see just green, little leaves.  I start to peel back the lateral buds and see just green again, a spiral of tender new growth. Not what I expected, but still a sign of hope, a sign of good things to come.

I notice that Dominic, in his Christmas light removal, missed some of the ground anchors. SIGH. I have spent the weekend making lists, shopping IKEA and Target and Walts, trying to cover all the bases for his departure a week from today. He’ll be living in an apartment-style dorm, with a kitchen and private bath, so it’s more like trying to outfit a home than just a bed and desk. Tony smiles as the pile on the dining room table grows – twin sheets, inexpensive pots and pans, plastic cups, toothpaste – boys don’t worry about these things, he posits. Well, their mothers do. Dominic hasn’t given a single thought to basics – his main concern is that he doesn’t have a DVD player. (Too bad, so sad.) Every time I come upon a Dominic Annoyance – the  things left behind, not put away, the crumbs and spills in the kitchen, the shoes left melting in the hallway, I declare aloud the days remaining until he leaves and tell him how glad I’ll be when he’s gone and my house stays clean.

Tonight, he hugs me and tells me that of course I’ll miss him. That I will cry, that I’ll be missing his smile, and the ruckus he causes. I’ll miss his smile, I admit, but will be able to do nicely without the ruckus.

He doesn’t understand. He doesn’t really get the enormity of what he’s doing next Sunday. Just a few short years ago, we didn’t know if he would ever be able to do what he’s doing – leave home, live with a perfect stranger, handle a full load of classes – make a real life. My heart is filled with joy and with awe. I am happy beyond belief. There is no sense of “stay one more day.” There is no hesitation, no nostalgic tears. There is only happiness, joy and peace. The bud of his life, so long dormant, is now unfurling, now blooming, now becoming whole and real and beautiful.

I will miss him terribly. I will miss the smile, and yes, the ruckus, the quirky sense of humor. I will probably find an excuse to be in the area and take him to dinner, to drink in his face and his voice and his intelligence and his experiences. But I am so glad he’s leaving, because it’s normal, it’s right and it’s healthy.

And the greatly reduced amount of laundry will be nice too.

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