Saturday, March 26, 2016

Some Days the Flowers Sleep

Around here, Easter is not so much churchy, as outdoorsy. For the duration of the long weekend - which starts on Good Friday and stretches through "Easter Monday" it seems as if the entire population of Ulster spills outdoors, until every hillside, forest, meadow and stretch of shoreline is peppered with colorful anoraks, like so many vibrant Easter frocks.

If I were to put a religious cast on it, perhaps there is an atmosphere of pilgrimage to the whole thing. People who look as if they have not been outside a building or vehicle in months emerge to convene with nature, to smell and to touch, to use their limbs to the point of exhaustion, to fling themselves, squinting, onto whatever sunlit expanse of fragrant earth they select to tramp.

In everyone's memory, these Easter weekends are endless and always - or nearly always - sunny, encouraging the mass-frolic and enhancing its picturesqueness. It seems that this year, however, is one of the exceptions - to be forgotten in the long run, to be shunned by later-day nostalgia and buried in that "or nearly always" clause.

But in the now, it is happening: weather so bad, so rough, so thoroughly "rotten," that the hillsides and forests and shorelines stand bare, conspicuously bleak in their lack of colourful anoraks, that the wind howls in place of giggling children's voices.

My head bent low over the handlebars, I brave a trip to the shop before it closes. In the brutal headwind, the mile-long ride requires a great deal more time and energy than seems probable.

Outside the shop the customers are few: a woman and three young children. They appear to  have come from a nearby house - she on foot and her offspring on tiny trikes, each one of them looking exhausted now, cold, and dangerously close to a tantrum. The trikes upturned, they shuffle and squirm now beside the windswept flowerbed, the mother pleading with each to keep still while she zips up their coats. At that point the youngest - a daughter - wriggles out of her grip and, with a tragic wail, runs to the flowerbed, pointing at a row of tattered tulips, felled by the wind.

"Oh no! Mommy, mommy look - are the flowers hurt? The flowers are lying down!"

And without missing a beat the mother scoops her back up and replies: "Ach no. The flowers are asleep, pet. Flowers need to rest."

Disaster averted, the group heads inside the shop for whatever last minute provisions they need before everything shuts through Sunday. And so do I, before pedaling back. I observe the muddy skies and the empty fields and hillsides, and the battered flowers in the neighbors' gardens. Before they reflected my own frustration at a "pointless" long weekend devoid of long bicycle rides. But now I shake my head and laugh at myself, arriving home to clean and write and knit and sit in other people's houses by the fire, talking.

20 comments:

  1. Ha! Same Easter weather here in Scotland... Not even a chocolate egg to cheer us up.

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    1. try a liquor-filled chocolate egg?

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  2. Here we are having the most beautiful weather possible for the Easter break - so I have been out on my mountain bike each day following the forest trails beside the river and creeks - just the sights and sounds of nature, or occasionally a small boat or a fisherman on the river bank.
    Closer to town, around the lake, the camping grounds and the shared paths, many people enjoying the outdoors with their family and friends.
    Tomorrow I will venture into the State Forest and stop at a local bakery on the way home or go a little further to the Cafe by the Lake - I don't tend to really plan my rides, just have some general idea and allow the ride to develop as it will.
    Cleaning, writing, knitting and visiting friends - also a pleasant way to enjoy the long weekend - there are other things to do beside cycling - and cycling in the weather conditions you describe would just not be fun at all.
    Hope the skies are blue, the wind becomes a breeze and the sun shines for the remainder of your Easter weekend.

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    1. Glad to hear it, enjoy the weekend!

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  3. Love the long exposure shot.

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    1. Thank you - though the shot is not long exposure.
      1/160 shutter speed, taken in murky-soupy "daylight"

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  4. Wonderful! I have come to look forward to your bleak holiday posts and was worried you would skip Easter this year. Thanks for the lovely words and off kilter observations.

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    1. Glad I have not disappointed you : )
      I think what makes my holiday posts come off a little grumpy, is that I've always found it unnatural to have prescribed times of celebration. Also: "holiday makers" cars clogging up the roads!

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  5. ".. to be shunned by later-day nostalgia and buried in the "or nearly always" clause "
    Your writing is always so very good and even brilliant. Thank you. Bill Atkins

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  6. "to fling themselves, squinting, onto whatever sunlit expanse of fragrant earth they select to tramp"

    Unexpectedly this brought back a long buried memory from childhood and I had to step away from my screen to process it. Back now, I have re-read this post twice. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you everyone for the thanks. Holidays by their cyclical nature tend to bring up memories (last year at Holiday X, we were with X, doing Y), which can be a good or a bad thing, or a bit of both.

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  7. Ficaria verna?

    A beautiful wildflower in Ireland, I assume - here in the US we put it in the invasive species category. Lovely nonetheless.

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    1. I thought Ranunculus (buttercup)?

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    2. They're in the same family and used to be grouped together - when having conversations about plants with my Grandmother we always have a sort of communication error regarding old names, colloquial names, and classifications of species that have been changed since she learned about them 60 years ago.

      But I've been wrong about flower species on the internet before :)

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    3. Ah thank you for clarifying.

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  8. Ficaria verna, the 'lesser celandine', a member of the buttercup family.

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  9. Perceptive as always and beautifully phrased. Thank you!

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  10. Ficaria is in the buttercup family. I'm battling another European buttercup in my yard in the Pacific Northwest: ranunculus repens (creeping buttercup).

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  11. How far we have travelled from our pagan roots. For those who celebrate, it is a confusing anniversary: the death and resurrection of Jesus not on the same day each year, but on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox, which in the northern hemisphere is laced with themes of rebirth of Nature - the coming of life from the earth after the long hard and dark winter when our food stocks ran low and our bodies shivered in the cold.

    Only today, in our modern world, Christian worship is a minority activity with a wide range of piety from deep believers to those who attend church twice a year, Christmas and Easter. We live in heated, lit homes and travel to heated, lit stores and workplaces in climate-controlled cars surrounded by vacuous music from great car radios playing ungreat tunes. For more, Easter becomes an inconvenience as the stores close on Friday, Sunday and Monday (at least in some places). Where I live, it coincides with the annual Jazz festival, so the streets are full, the lines to the icecream stand are long and restaurants have a 15% holiday premium to cover the legally-mandated time and a half for staff.

    But for those of us who use bicycles to get around, we begin to reconnect with the original cycle of life that is Easter. We are in the outdoors, protected only by our clothes. We smell the fertility of the soil. We smell the flowers calling the bees to keep life going. We notice the sunrise and sunset and notice that the equinox is the time when the days go crazy. The sun goes down about five minutes different each day. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, Easter marks the longer days; for those in the Southern Hemisphere, it's just confusing; like Christmas an imported northern holiday that makes no circadian sense.

    Celebrations mark the passage of time. The flowers remember even if the humans forget. Thank you for noticing and calling it to our attention.

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