The sun came out after a blustery rainy morning, and suddenly everyone was out on the street. I went out too, but only to hack down the bushes under the windows outside the den.
"Hack down" might not be the proper phrase to describe this delicate and artful process, by which I succeed in taming the twelve-foot-tall shrubs—forsythia, yellow-twig dogwood, and highbush cranberry—that have thrived in the six-foot-tall space under those windows for thirty-odd years.
The theory is that if you cut back a shrub before the sap starts to run, adventitious buds will develop further down on the branches, and as it leafs out, the plant in question will become fuller and more shapely while also remaining shorter.
Most years I forget to do this. It takes a sunny Friday afternoon in mid-February when the temperature reaches 45 degrees to alert me to the task.
Meanwhile, Hilary went out to the street to chat with the neighbors. Stephan was walking his son Logan home from school, Brendan appeared from his garage to return a vase we'd given his wife, Sarah, along with some flowers, to cheer her up while she was convalescing from an operation. And Alice, who moved into the house next door only last October, joined the party because—why not?
Hilary and I then set out for a brief stroll through the neighborhood. A pale moon was visible, but we saw no turkeys in the trees, no deer tracks in the vanishing snow. We were both reminded of the joy felt by young people listening to the sound of water running down the street and into the storm sewer grates. It excites the deepest recesses of one's being. We felt it ourselves. I found a twig and tossed it into the flow of melt-water, but it was too heavy—or the stream was too shallow, the current too slow.
A week ago the temperature was -24. At that time we were on vacation 200 miles north of here, but still. Yet I have little doubt that it will snow again more than once before we emerge into summer's garden.
But right now the sunlight hits the trees in a celebratory way, and it almost seems that the earth is starting to breathe again.
Returning inside, I search in vain for my copy of the I Ching. The book of changes. We used to pronounce it the way it looks. Nowadays I believe they pronounce it "E Jung."
For heaven's sake, just write it the way you pronounce it!
For Heaven's sake, indeed.