Despite lack of sleep, the pall of coronavirus, the recent loss of my father and stress-related weight gain, things have been pretty darn good lately. Not much has changed, of course. However, I had a few days off during a time of exceptionally nice weather.

Northern California is ideal for about three weeks in spring and about three weeks in the fall. Our winters are mild and summer nights after 9 p.m are tolerable.

My school celebrates President’s Day with a week off from school. Monday I played in the snow at Lassen National Park. Wednesday, Kara and I traveled to the beach at Fort Bragg. Saturday it was a quick run to the river for deep-fried food at Scotty’s Landing. (Oh yes, and there was a ton of grading, planning, and other teacher-related work after sunsets).

Some of these adventures required driving through almond orchards, now in full bloom.

Exhale.

With all of the difficulties in the world, I can’t say these recent excursions created a “perfect day,” but I did experience some perfect moments.

Monday was the return to my Zoom classroom. As I drove across the valley toward school my mind was buzzing about my lesson on poetry.

Poetry is prose, whittled down to its most basic images.

The images in front of my car’s windshield weren’t bad.

Pink./ Pink of new day./ Pink sky reflected in puddles/ Blush on distant snow-covered mountains/ Horizontal clouds/ Pink,/ Like paint on a 3-year-old child’s moving fingers./

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Almond trees, fat with blossoms/ New light brushed on white petals/ Pink/ Mourning shadows on new grass.

It wasn’t a poem, of course. It was just enough to make a point about poetic images to Zoom students, one who was still wrapped in blankets, watching his Chromebooks with one eye closed.

A big wake up

Maybe getting older isn’t all bad. When I reach retirement age I won’t need to return to work after a week when February is more beautiful than poetry.

While I was spinning my wheels on the open road, the weeds went wild in my backyard. Now is a great time to wield a hoe like a berserk Medieval swordsman. When Velcro weed and common grundsel are newly-sprung, you can do serious damage by twirling the hoe like a majorette at the Disneyland parade. These are among the weeds to learn to detect when they are young. If you mistake them for daisied, these scoundrels will flower and set seeds before you have time to eat all of your Valentine’s Day chocolate.

Other sprouts

But it’s not all bad news. Last fall there was another beautiful week when I did a few tasks in the yard. Maybe it was October or December when I yanked at the ancient, harlequin-bug-infested kale bush and scraped the soil with a hoe. I opened two bags of soil from the big-box store and added a few handsful of steer manure.

The kale had gone to seed sometime in the summer, and by the time I tackled the plant the seed pods were fragile.

Good thing I have some pent-up frustration. When I tugged out the kale plant, I let go of some of the anger I had for the chaos in the world and seeds scattered from the gravel driveway to the neighbor’s new fence.

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This week I checked, and new kale sprouts have arrived.

My friend LaDona taught me how to scatter seeds with the least amount of thought or effort. When her plants go to seed, she just lets the seeds blow where they may.

For my part, I now have arugula growing in my garden walkway, as well as in the soil that I forgot to empty from a wheelbarrow. Garlic chives will also plant themselves without human assistance. Yet, it’s painful to yank them when it’s time to plant tomatoes.

Yes, there are still a few red cherry tomatoes clinging to the rusted chicken wire that keeps the neighbor’s dog from my raised bed. The tomatoes are nearly mush at this point. My hope is that these will soon drop to the ground and replant with the same amount of effort as the kale, arugula and chives.



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