For the recently concluded National Poetry Month, the Broome County Arts Council invited local poets to contribute a short poem about spring, hope, and/or other positive things for their POETREE.
I had hoped to make it down to the gallery to see it and take photos for this post, but I didn’t manage to do that. Instead, I have copied the poem I wrote especially for the project below:
Why We Will Never Use Weedkillers by Joanne Corey
Every spring, we watch the jagged-edged three-ness of strawberry leaves emerge from the snowmelt-soaked lawn, the white five-petaled blossoms attract the bees to their sunny centers, the green-white berries ripen to red in June, the squirrels feasting.
There is an old song “What a Difference a Day Makes” but today I’m thinking about what a difference a year makes.
Two years ago this spring, my mom, known here as Nana, was living in the skilled nursing section of the senior community where she and my father, Paco, had lived for ten years. She was under hospice care as she was nearing the end of her battle with heart failure. My father and I visited every day for hours with frequent visits from my daughters and granddaughter ABC, who were living with us at the time. My out-of-town sisters were able to come to visit often, too.
Nana passed away in May 2019, a few days after her 87th birthday. We were able to hold her funeral in her parish church with a visiting hour before with friends coming to comfort us. There was also a gathering at her and Paco’s senior community.
Last spring, we were all in COVID lockdown. Visiting nursing homes was totally shut down with very limited exceptions for end-of-life situations. I often thought of what that would have looked like for us, if Nana had been facing death in spring 2020 rather than 2019. We would have lost those last few weeks with her, which were painful but also filled with precious moments. We were able to bring her flowers, including her beloved lilies-of-the-valley which blossom in May, just in time for Mother’s Day and her birthday. One of the last things she was able to eat was a little fruit tart I had brought for her birthday. I helped her by cutting it and fed her as she had me when I was a baby…
In 2020, we would likely not have been allowed to visit until the very end when she was unconscious. The church was totally closed, so there would have been no funeral, not even for family.
It was hard last spring, too, because we could no longer visit Paco every day in his apartment. Although visits to independent living apartments were not totally forbidden, they were supposed to be limited, with some masked outdoor visits preferred over anything indoors. My sisters had planned to visit for Paco’s 95th birthday in March but that had to be postponed. Little did we realize at the time that that postponement would turn into cancellation.
That brings us to this spring, which is just getting underway here with some of the early bulbs flowering and the first trees starting to bud. Paco is now living in assisted living which is part of the health care center. While visiting and gathering there are still limited, my younger sister and I were able to visit him for half an hour in his apartment on his birthday and he was able to share a large birthday cake we provided with the other residents and staff on his unit later in the day. Later this month, my elder sister will be able to visit in person for the first time since last summer. She lives out-of-state so hasn’t been able to travel to New York without prohibitively lengthy quarantine, but now, with vaccines available and changes in state policy, she will finally be able to see Paco again.
We have no idea, though, if or when daughter E and granddaughter ABC will be able to visit. They moved permanently to the UK in fall 2019, joining son-in-law L in London. They have since been joined by granddaughter JG, who recently had her first tooth break through.
Spouse B, daughter T, and I would love to think that this spring we could jet off to London to meet JG in person for the first time, but it isn’t possible. Maybe this summer? It depends on conditions with the pandemic and travel restrictions.
Will we get to hold her while she is still a baby or will she be an on-the-move toddler by that time?
Will Paco ever get to meet her in person? For the UK family branch to visit the US is much more complicated and we have no idea when that will be feasible. We also, sadly, don’t know how things will go with Paco’s cognitive decline. While sometimes he remembers names of family members, sometimes he forgets them.
Sometimes, he forgets that he has great-grandchildren at all.
In 2019, I knew that spring 2020 would be very different because my mother would not be there. I could not have imagined how different 2020 would turn out to be.
This spring has been slower to warm than usual. Most years, we have lilies of the valley by Mother’s Day or by Nana’s birthday on May 16th at the latest. Lilies of the valley are the birth flower for May and we always picked bud vases for her while they were flowering.
Years ago, B and I transplanted a few pips from our childhood yards in New England to our home in New York. Lilies of the valley “spread aggressively” as horticulturists say and we now have a patch at least 25 square feet (2.3 square meters).
I’ve written previously about some of the hidden blessings of not having to deal with the complications of 2020 last year as we spent our final months with Nana. We were able to bring her beautiful, fragrant bouquets of lilies of the valley for her last birthday, which would not have been possible with the later spring blossoming this year and the restrictions on visiting skilled nursing facilities.
Nana’s ashes are in an indoor niche at a memorial park in our town where fresh flowers are not allowed. I’m hoping someday to find some beautiful artificial lilies of the valley to leave there for her, so there will always be a bit of spring and her favorite May flower nearby.
When I was a student at Smith College, one of my favorite annual events was the Spring Bulb Show at Lyman Plant House. It isn’t available to the public this year, but here is a lovely video tour. Enjoy!
I am not a fan of Daylight Saving Time, which started today in most of the United States.
It is not an accurate name. The amount of daylight is determined by astronomy, not by clocks. Naming the time of sunrise and sunset differently does not change the time between those two events.
What most annoys me, though, is waking up in the dark again. I had just gotten to the point where I was waking up to the light of dawn, which I find more energizing, and now I am instantly back into mid-winter waking-to-darkness.
This is not helped by the fact that we are having a cold snap and may soon have the most snow we have had in weeks, depending on the track of a developing nor’easter.
I know that many people will argue that having it be light longer in the evening makes up for the dark mornings, but we had already been able to eat dinner in natural light, although I admit that we tend to eat dinner on the early side.
By June, it won’t be fully dark until after 9 PM, which makes our usual 10 PM bedtime feel like we are children, being put to bed as soon as evening falls.
Daylight Saving Time, especially the current US implementation, also causes issues with long-distance communications. E’s daily call time with her employer in Hawai’i will shift. B’s daily 6 AM conference call with colleagues in India (thankfully) stays at 6 AM for him, but his India team has to change the time at which they call. Because the US extended the dates of DST, for the next three weeks, US time will be out of sync with many of the countries that observe DST using the original dates.
It would be so much simpler if we just dropped the whole concept and left our clocks alone.
Daylight doesn’t care, but I do.
How do you feel about Daylight Saving Time? Is it observed where you are?
The Algonquins who were native to my region named the full moon this time of year the strawberry moon.
Usually at this time of year, we are enjoying plentiful local strawberries. For many years, I would go to a local farm to pick quarts and quarts of berries. We would share some with family and then I would put the kitchen in full-blown strawberry mode. Strawberries on cereal or with yogurt for breakfast. Strawberries on fresh leaf lettuce or baby spinach with pecans and goat cheese. Strawberry shortcake. Fresh strawberry pie. Strawberry rhubarb soup. Strawberries on ice cream. Strawberry-rhubarb pie, crisp, or cobbler. Just eating them and enjoying their sweet fragrance.
The last few years, I haven’t been picking myself, but buying them from the local farmstands. We don’t often buy strawberries other than when they are local. Supermarket strawberries from hundreds or thousands of miles away just don’t compare to what our local berries taste like.
I know that the farms will have berries when the wild strawberries that grow in our yard ripen.
This year, the berries are late.
After a mild winter, the spring was chilly. While we had some wet weather in the earlier part of the spring, we are now in a dry spell. It’s all combined to make the local berries late to ripen.
Last week, I was able to find some berries from a farm about sixty miles from here and, yesterday, I finally found some from Broome-Tioga.
There is a fresh strawberry pie setting in the refrigerator. After supper, we will bring it up to Nana and Paco’s to share with them.
It’s best to eat it the day it is made.
It won’t be a hardship for the five of us to finish it.