“Would I love it this way if it could last”

chilly morning

It would be easy to feel hopeless. To be consumed by sadness for those dying alone, a phone held to the ear of a woman unconscious in hospital in New York, a prayer whispered through time and space. Sometimes I do feel hopeless. Mostly at bedtime, when my instinct is to burrow under the covers and never come out again. But then I wake in the night to pee and there are stars, the same stars as ever were. Owls call still. The salmonberry blossoms are out, the cerise flutters that bring hummingbirds, bees.

Mostly I’ve been working outside. The mornings are cold but by noon it’s often warm enough to shed a layer or two and try to finish the final bed, Raspberry Beret, one of the long barrows of earth where we’ve been growing (what else) raspberries. This particular bed has become overrun with invasive grass, its wiry white roots tenacious. I’m using a pick. Yesterday a robin followed my progress, waiting until I went to empty a bucket of grass and roots to plunge into the loose soil for worms. In a month we’ll hear their salmonberry song as the berries begin to ripen.

Would I love it this way if it could last
would I love it this way if it
were the whole sky the one heaven

I feel sorrow for the sick and the dying, their families and friends. I wish we were all just going on with our lives in the usual ways of spring. In our house we have enough to eat, a case of Wild Goose wine on its way, enough firewood to get us through to May. The coldframe is filled with pots of spinach seedings, rapini, salads of one kind or another, and first peas are planted out with the second sowing sprouting behind the woodstove. The tomatoes are sulky. When I’m working outside, it could be any year. The same tools, the same beds, the constellations of volunteer kale, umbels of primroses, Algerian iris from John’s mum’s garden near Nanaimo, the moss roses showing their lime green buds. I hear tree frogs but I haven’t seen one, though their pot of water is waiting, the yellow flag irises shooting up to provide shade once it’s needed.

through bamboo

April is poetry month, as if it needs its own month, and yes, poetry helps. Think of William Stanley Merwin, his eyesight fading, working in his garden on Maui, restoring rainforest to an area of wasteland, and writing poems that “feel like part of some timeless continuum, a river that stretches all the way back to Han Shan and Li Po”, season after season, asking himself,

would I love it this way if I were somewhere else
or if I were younger for the first time
or if these very birds were not singing
or I could not hear them or see their trees

*lines are from “The Morning”, Garden Time, Copper Canyon Press, 2016

2 thoughts on ““Would I love it this way if it could last””

  1. So very lovely, Theresa. I have never heard it called “the salmonberry song,” but forever more that is what it will be in my mind. Your words evoke memories of my own. And no, I would not love it this way if it weren’t now and if I wasn’t the somewhat older and wiser being I am now. Stay safe and well.

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