‘Springtime’s coming,’ he said. ‘Cannot tha’ smell it?’
Mary sniffed and thought she could.
‘I smell something nice and fresh and damp,’ she said.
‘That’s th’ good rich earth,’ he answered, digging away. ‘It’s in a good humour makin’ ready to grow things. It’s glad when plantin’ time comes. In th’ flower gardens out there things will be stirrin’ down below in th’ dark. Th’ sun’s warmin’ ‘em. You’ll see bits o’ green spikes sticking out o’ th’ black earth after a bit.’
‘What will they be?’ asked Mary.
‘Crocuses an’ snowdrops an’ daffydowndillys. Has tha’ never seen them?’
‘No. Everything is hot, and wet, and green after the rains in India,’ said Mary. ‘And I think things grow up in a night.’
‘These won’t grow up in a night,’ said Weatherstaff. ‘Tha’ll have to wait for ‘em. They’ll poke up a bit higher here, and push out a spike more there, an’ uncurl a leaf this day an’ another that. You watch ‘em.’
‘I am going to,’ answered Mary.
— The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
I spotted the first crocuses of the season (pictured above) on Monday, in the yard of a house with a purple door. They sent me running to my bookshelf for my green-covered paperback of this lovely book, which chronicles an astonishing series of transformations. The bitter, lonely orphan Mary Lennox, the spoiled invalid Colin Craven, and Colin’s reclusive, embittered father, Archibald Craven (Mary’s uncle), are renewed and restored, as surely as the fallow ground and tangled plants in the walled garden are made new after lying dormant for ten years.
I loved this story as a child, because I love gardens and England and stories of hope. But only since spending two winters in Oxford, and then three in Boston, have I come to appreciate the true wonder of spring. In a place where two feet of snow can fall in March, a clump of crocuses on a sunny day feels like a miracle – even if you’re wearing a down coat when you spot them.
Like Mary, I am watching the green spikes sticking out of the black earth, rejoicing in the plump robins hopping around campus, relishing the suddenly longer evenings. I am waiting for soft air and blossoming trees, and for the appearance of rhubarb at the grocery store. Spring, more than any other season, inspires me to pay attention, and until it arrives, you can find me watching and waiting, alert for the first signs of bud and bloom.