May is rapidly moving along, under-performing in moisture, but cold enough to retain the snow pack levels in the mountains. Snow is predicted above 5000 feet tonight. The farmer’s market newsletters are reporting that they are at least two weeks behind in their planting. The Flower Moon has been bright and full the past few days, and in some parts of the country, people were able to see the lunar eclipse. Bushes and trees are greening up daily, and the tiny, delicate violets are popping up between stones on the terrace. I’ve watered them a bit when they begin to droop, and beg them to hang on and provide a bit of cheer in this cold.
I’ve thought that our weather lines up with how the world feels writ large. How is it possible to have such bad news, day after day after day. Covid, which we tried to wish away, appears to be dramatically on the rise again with the latest variants. I’ve ordered the latest free tests, and stocked up on N-95 masks, also from the federal government, which were being given away at a local grocery store. “Just take as many as you want from the grocery cart,” said the clerk at check-out. And, both Don and I had our second booster shot on Monday. We just keep sheltering in place. We have decided it’s worth the risk to see our families, who we miss so much, and we joined the Billings family in Coeur d’Alene for Anna’s soccer tournament, and my birthday celebration on Mother’s Day. We shared an Airbnb, and ate there so we could avoid restaurants, and it was wonderful to be together. We’ll go to Billings over Memorial Day for Duncan’s high school graduation, and fly out to California mid-June to squeeze those grandkids. It’s so essential to our mental health.
My sister reminded me this morning that today marks twenty-five years since our mother died. She died of a broken heart–but, that’s a story for a novel someone should write about my family of origin. It was many years before all my memories of her were sad ones, but, in the past years, finally, there are so many good and sweet ones. Recently, I’m remembering so much about my childhood in northern Ohio, including how we used to have sauteed dandelion greens in May. It was very satisfying to dig up the roots in the damp earth, with that special garden tool, in cool spring air. She soaked them in the sink with lots of water to clean them, and when they were cooked, they were splashed with cider vinegar. I have kept several 3×5 index card recipes she gave me when I was first married, and love running my fingers over her handwriting. On most of them, she had written under the title, “a real poverty dish”. I am quite certain the dandelion greens were a stable of Depression times in West Virginia, where her parents came from.
Time moves on. On my birthday, I’d outlived my mother by two years. It was Fletcher’s, my first grandchild, 21st birthday yesterday, and Duncan turns 18 today. It doesn’t seem very long ago that Duncan told me the dandelion flowers, after they’d gone to seed and were fun to blow into the air, looked like ballgowns. We wish that time would move on, past the cold spring days, past Covid, and all the unwinding in the world which causes so much anxiety. It’s so easy to miss seeing any beauty with all the weeds in our midst.
A Dandelion for My Mother, by Jean Nordhaus
How I loved those spiky suns,
rooted stubborn as childhood
in the grass, tough as the farmer’s
big-headed children—the mats
of yellow hair, the bowl-cut fringe.
How sturdy they were and how
slowly they turned themselves
into galaxies, domes of ghost stars
barely visible by day, pale
cerebrums clinging to life
on tough green stems. Like you.
Like you, in the end. If you were here,
I’d pluck this trembling globe to show
how beautiful a thing can be
a breath will tear away.