Weekend Coffee Share: “Wick”

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If we were having coffee this morning, we could giggle and chatter about the joys of spring here in Michigan. The crocuses, the daffodils, and the potholes that have bloomed everywhere. The end of my self-imposed winter hibernation. The beginning of my state’s most extended and well-known season: Construction.

For me, the surest sign of spring is the return of the robin, our state bird. When I was a kid, my aunt Marian taught us to “stamp” robins. She would lick her right thumb, press it into her left palm, and then turn her right hand over and pound her fist into her left palm, shouting out a number.

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In theory, she was counting the robins because counting and stamping one hundred robins each spring was supposed to guarantee good luck for the upcoming year. In reality, we all suspected that Marian cheated. We didn’t mind, though, because we all cheated too. It was just too hard to keep accurate running totals in our minds.  After hitting one hundred, most of us kept on stamping a few surplus robins just to make sure we really hit a hundred.

The best part of stamping robins with Aunt Marian was calling her every spring to tell her when we saw our first robin. She’s been gone seven years now, but I still reach for the phone when I see the first one, only to remind myself that she’s in heaven, probably lying to the angels about how many robins she’s stamping at that very moment.

My kids have never gotten into the whole business of stamping and counting, but they’ve caught my enthusiasm for spotting the first robin each year. One morning a few weeks ago, as my boys and I were leaving for school, my youngest started bouncing around in the back seat and squealing “Robin! Robin!”

“Where?” I demanded.

“Never mind. It was a cardinal,” he said sheepishly.

For the record, it was a mourning dove.

What he lacks in in knowledge of birds, he makes up for in enthusiasm. Of course, his older brother now feels the need to tease him by randomly shouting out the names of other birds. “Ostrich!” he’ll bellow.  “Emu! Pelican! Never mind,” he’ll say, pointing at the nearest mourning dove.  “It was a cardinal.”

The robin is more than just part of my family’s weird traditions. He is also a symbol of hope, of new beginnings. A sign of better things to come.  His red breast is thought by some to represent the rising of the sun, the dawning of a new day.

I like that.

In one of my favorite books, The Secret Garden, little Mary befriends a helpful robin who leads her to the garden door and the hidden key that unlocks its secrets. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the book, the garden appears to be cold and abandoned, just like Mary; but a little bit of hope and attention bring both the child and the plants to full, vibrant life.

Dickon, the boy who learns her secrets and guides her along the way, shows her how a seemingly dead plant can still have a little life deep inside. He says they are “wick”– alive, or lively.

Every spring, when I see my first robin, I think of that moment in The Secret Garden, when lonely little Mary follows the robin and finds the key to her own inner springtime. I think of Mary, and I think of Marian, and I know that somewhere, even on the very worst days, there is a part of me that is  “wick.”

Take a moment this week to look for the signs of spring that mean the most to you. Count your robins, pick a daffodil or too, have a picnic. Whatever it takes, get out there and welcome spring with open arms and remember that you, too, are “wick” inside, no matter how dark the winter has been.

And if that fails, you can always try counting one hundred robins for good luck.

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Be sure to visit Diana over at Part-Time Monster to link up and see what some other bloggers have had to say with their weekly coffee share.  Thanks to Diana for hosting the #coffeeshare posts!

Jump Out or Garden, Craven Fool

Daily PromptTurn to your co-workers, kids, Facebook friends, family — anyone who’s accessible — and ask them to suggest an article, an adjective, and a noun. There’s your post title! Now write.

Since I am home alone most of the day, I had to ask for input for the Daily Prompt from my friends on Facebook, and I realized just how eclectic, smart and delightfully twisted my friends are.  Not only did I get words like “craven”, I also got what is perhaps the greatest Facebook comment ever made.  Ever:

I asked my staff to help. I said give me an adjective to describe yourself.  From them I got “Jittery” (Obviously too much coffee) “Bloated” (Didn’t ask) and “Flatulent”. I have since decided to leave early for court . . .

Bless your heart.  I had no idea lawyers were so funny.

Back to business.  The word craven immediately made me think of Lord Archibald Craven in “The Secret Garden”. But since it’s used here as an adjective and not a great character in literature, I had to look it up.

It means “cowardly”.

Good word.

It really does describe Lord Craven.  He is a coward, trapped by his own fears in a cold and lonely world of his own creation.  He is so afraid of having a crippled son that his fear turns the boy into an invalid; he is so afraid of losing another loved one that he won’t allow himself to love anyone at all.   He is distant and terribly alone, all because of his fears.

If you aren’t familiar with the book, it’s the story of Mary, a young orphaned girl who is forced to move from her luxurious home in India to her uncle’s lonely manor in England.  Like her uncle, Lord Craven, she is withdrawn and cold, starved for any kind of affection.  She “adopts” an old, abandoned garden and as the plants grow and blossom, so does Mary—and so does everyone around her.

It’s a story of growth and healing, of the strength of the human spirit if only it is properly tended.

Every year, when I planted my garden, I thought of Mary asking, “Please, sir, may I have a bit of Earth?” And I’d smile and tell myself that I read too much, and to shut up and water the damn plants.

Two years ago, I didn’t get my garden planted because of my car accident.  I was in the hospital when I should have been turning the soil, in a brace when I should have been weeding, feeling sorry for myself when I should have been harvesting.    I didn’t get it done last year, either;  the physical work was just too hard.  Too overwhelming.

Too scary.

I’ve been a craven fool, a coward, so afraid of pain that I’ve given up.  I stopped gardening, swimming, walking the KalHaven Trail, playing outside with my kids.  I let my fear of getting hurt again stop  my healing.  I’ve let my spirit die alongside my garden.

My little garden sits there, untended, overgrown, abandoned.  Just like Mary’s garden when she first discovered it.

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The Big Guy says we don’t need  to plant the garden this year.  We can buy our tomatoes and cucumbers and green beans without all of the back-breaking work.  He knows I’m scared, and he knows the work will be hard, and he wants to keep me safe.

But he never read “The Secret Garden.”

He doesn’t understand that gardening isn’t about the harvest.  It’s about the growth.