Sunday, March 20, 2011
The Tenderest Shoot
Pastel by Ruth Waddell
In Upstate New York the earth is frozen hard until the sun's rays reach into that first few centimeters, softening, and warming even as the air temperature rises just above freezing. On the shady slope under the old maples the snow still holds its piles and drifts, though they've sunken and crystallized from thaw and freeze.
The tiny spikes, translucent yellow-green, flat and luminous, pierce this frozen layer and poke up above the earth into the bright sunlight. The garlic is coming up. The day lilies, too, have begun their journey from the dark to the light, just as the length of day equalizes with the length of night, here in the Northern Hemisphere -- and equally in the Southern Hemisphere. Equinox, "equal night," began with an enormous and unusual "perigee" moon, closer to earth due to its elliptical shape.
How can something so fragile make it through such a forbidding environment? Even once above ground the variations in temperature seem impossible to bear for my skin, and the wind when calm is fine but it kicks up into biting nose-running cold.
Living in this fragile human body I am in awe of the tiny garlic spike. My own strengths are also in my tenderest parts, those that open to awareness, draw my attention, expand my view beyond the frozen and hardened into the wildness of conditional fluctuations. The ability to see my self in all my reactive nature comes directly from this place of openness, where anything might pierce the luminous and let the darkness in, yet just as easily break through the darkness with light.
I cherish my understanding of how the roots dig in and suck in nutrients; the garlic bulbs swell and form cloves in heads just below the surface; the spike lifts and rises into elegant spears of leaves and stems sending up a globe of blooming flowers, the flavors and aromas of garlic in every bent stem, in every bloom.