Last week, as the last days of February were fading, I noticed - on the warm side of the hill near our home - daffodils in bloom. Their bright yellow faces were turned up toward the warmth of the sun. Spring flowers, this year, have made their appearance a few weeks earlier than normal.
Wanting to see the first flowers of spring a little closer, I knelt down and turned one of the flowers toward me. As I looked around, I realized they soon would not be alone in their early spring awakening. Around them were a couple of dozens more, ready to open to the world. The weather predicting groundhog may have forecasted six more weeks of winter, but somehow, this year, I think he may have gotten it wrong. Snowy winter weather just never seemed to make an appearance in our area this year.
In a typical winter, I clear snow from my driveway at least a couple of times with my tractor. This year the snow blade, that I painted and prepared last fall, has gone unused this winter.
My daffodils are not the only sign spring is coming. The undergrowth along the fields has begun to show signs of breaking out in green foliage. In town, the other day, I saw a Magnolia tree with flower buds waiting to open. They were so close, I could see the purple of the flowers peeking from under their fuzzy green covering.
In my eagerness to kickstart spring, I have thought about plowing my garden. They say if you turn over the soil, and it freezes, it will kill the weeds and bugs. For those who believe this, I would tell them I think my bugs go to Florida for the winter and, like snow birds, they return in the spring.
In the woods near my house, I see the tops of wild flowers peering through the leaves that fell last fall. I would expect, before long, spring ramps will begin to appear. There is something about spring that makes me feel good. I guess, in a way, it is my recognition I am here to see the world renew itself one more time.
This late winter day has another meaning for me. It reminds me it has been one year since I lost my dad. He liked flowers and kept a flower bed filled with bright colored tulips and hyacinths that appeared each spring. Over the last few years, his flower bed lost many of its perennial flowers. Ground moles, insects and his ability to care for the bed, took a toll on the spring flowers.
Still, he tried to keep it growing and full of the flowers he enjoyed. When I visited, he would point out his flowers and tell me how they were doing. I miss his flowers, but not as much as I miss my dad.
This coming spring, when I purchase my bean seeds, I will pick up a type known as half runners. Mary and I have always enjoyed growing beans, and our favorite is a brand named Top Crop. They are easy to grow and even easier to clean. They have no strings to remove before cooking.
Having said this, you may be wondering why am I going to plant half runners this season.
This year's half runner patch will remind me of a lifelong friend of my mom and dad's. A short time ago, their friend, Earl Leasure passed away. They always called him Junior, and that's how I will always remember him. Junior was a man who always brought a smile to my face. His sense of humor, and a bit of orneriness, made him someone I enjoyed talking with. He also loved to plant his garden with half runners. To hear him tell it, there was only one real green bean in the garden, half runners.
Junior was 90, and gardening had become a difficult task for him. But, this season, he was going to plant a new type of garden, a raised bed. Last year his wife Martha, to whom he had been married for 69 years, asked if I would draw a sketch of my raised bed, along with its measurements. She planned to have their sons build a similar one for Junior to plant this year's garden. They built it as a gift for his birthday.
Not long ago I talked with Junior; he told me of the many things he was going to plant in his raised garden bed. He spoke of half runner beans, corn, and tomatoes. I thought to myself, his sons must have built him a very large raised bed.
Junior was eager to start planting seeds for this year's season. With this in mind, he filled a flower pot with dirt, using his bare hands. He was planning to start this season's tomatoes in its soil. But, that was not to be. He was called home holding the flower pot while planning how many seeds to plant in it.
Upon hearing of his passing, I felt a great sadness that Junior was not going to be able to plant his beloved half runners this season. I realized his last thoughts were of something he loved to do. In this world, too often, people are stricken with the pain of illness or lost in the fog of age when their time comes. Junior, I have to believe, was not one of those people. He held a pot of soil with his earth-covered hands. His thoughts were of this season's tomatoes. When I plant half runners this year, I will remember a man who never failed to make me smile.
My favorite quote is by Ralph Waldo Emerson. When I think of Dad and Junior, I will remember his words. To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
Spring is a time of renewal in our world. But, it is also a time when we remember loved ones who have been called home. On this day, I remember my dad, and I will plant a tomato seed in remembrance of him.
In a couple months when my raised bed is ready, I will plant a few half runner beans to remember Junior.
I will also remember him when I am cleaning those stringy beans later this summer. Life has many things for us to experience; some are painful while others bring joy. I hope this spring, as your daffodils bloom, you will remember to enjoy the gift of life and remember those who are no longer with us, as we look Through the Lens.