Surprised by Spring

I’ve watched the red squirrels and the black lab dance through the narrow flower beds over the past several weeks, convinced that every round paw print, every hole dug with tiny little squirrel feet, was driving my broccoli and lettuce and kale and pea and spinach seeds further away from the possibility of sprouting.

The weather has worked against me, too. Just a day or two after I carefully raked and hoed the beds, shoveling rich humus from the compost pile and carefully dropping seeds into their shallow graves, the temperature dropped from highs in the 50s to highs in the 30s.

“Will the garden be okay?” my husband asked when we were reviewing the weather forecast. “Oh yeah,” I said, confidently. “They are cold-weather crops. They can handle it.” But all I was really doing was hoping, not knowing. And not really hoping all that well.

At the back corner near the foundation of our home, I’ve watched long green leaves growing in a clump, and I’ve hoped that they would eventually form daffodils, one of my favorite Spring blooms. The blades reached higher and higher, but no buds appeared. Nearly every day I would walk the fence row of our small back yard. Weeds grow aplenty. But no lettuce. No spinach. No kale. No peas. No broccoli. And definitely, no daffodils.

“We just aren’t going to be able to have a garden,” I’ve started telling people. “We just don’t get the sunlight.” Only sometimes do I mention the dog and the squirrels. Sunday after our Easter dinner, though, I told my dad about the squirrels. “I think they’re digging up the seeds I planted,” I told him.

“I hate squirrels,” he said. “There’s just so many of them, and there’s nothing you can do about them.” He and my uncle and brother-in-law had been talking about trapping groundhogs. They were an animal you could do something about, they had decided. But not squirrels.

Recognizing Spring

Every spring it happens. After a cold, dark winter, all I want to do is get my hands dirty, to clean up the sticks and leaves and rubbish that winter drops and breaks and works up from the ground. I want to plant things and water them and see them grow. This year was no exception. But I am in a new house again, the third house over the past four springs. Just like winter’s cold took us by surprise here, freezing the water pipes to the back bathroom, so too we are having to adapt to the changes of spring. The paint is peeling on the fence. Will we need to paint it every year, or just every few? The grass is growing back in clumps; will it eventually fill in? As I’ve pruned and pulled and pinched, I fear I may have over-handled some of the perennials. Or will they all grow back? There are many things I don’t recognize about spring this year.

But this is what remains the same: the lightness that lifts my spirit as the sun touches the tops of my knees for the first time this year. The intensity that rises in my pulse as I ride my bike and walk outside and breathe in deeply the gradually warming air. The hope that grows in my heart as I relive the resurrection of Jesus each time I see news buds forming on the trees and new growth sprouting from the ground.

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Daffodils at Last

Saturday when we were buying Easter candy for the boys (yes, we waited until Saturday, when the crowd at Target nearly sent me into the ground), I picked up a plastic pot of greenhouse daffodils. The ones at the back corner were still just thin green blades, and I had moved on. “We have some of those in our yard,” Steve said.

“I know,” I told him. “But they aren’t really blooming. Do you mind if I get these?”

“Go ahead, it’s fine.”

My heart filled Sunday morning as I looked at the small pot in the center of our table and saw a few new blooms open for Easter. Later, as we drove from house to house visiting family for egg hunts and cook outs, I noticed the clumps of daffodils growing in other people’s yards. Even if my backyard clump never bloomed, I thought of the pot on our table and smiled.

When we arrived home Sunday evening, I noticed a frisbee in our back yard, an unexpected gift from the neighbors, I presumed. I picked it up and walked to the gate to toss it back to them, when I saw a blanket of yellow on the side of our house, the side I rarely walk by.

“Look!” I said to Steve. “Daffodils!”

And as it turned out, those were the ones he was trying to tell me about all along. I had watched and worried over the small clump in the backyard while spring was giving us an abundance just around the corner—when we weren’t even looking. I laughed out loud at the surprise of it all.

The new hope of the daffodils sent me back to the flower beds Monday morning, and I laughed again to see the tiny sprouts of the little seeds I had planted weeks ago. The death they died finally produced the life I have been expecting.

Hope had grown dim, but with spring’s surprises, I feel it rising again in my heart.

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You were waiting for this post, weren’t you? If you’ve been following my blog for long, you know I always write a spring post. It’s like it’s part of my DNA to do so. If you are interested, check out these previously published Spring posts that are all about hope and new life.


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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.