Sea­son of hope

Northern Pen - - Front page - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 39 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@thetele­ — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

I’m hid­ing the seed pota­toes in the holes I’ve dug in the new meadow gar­den, back­fill­ing and cov­er­ing the tu­bers with a mix of dark soil and café-aulait clay. They’re Ken­nebecs, de­vel­oped at a Maine agri­cul­tural sta­tion, prob­a­bly too am­bi­tiously large a po­tato for New­found­land’s short grow­ing sea­son and I’ve prob­a­bly planted them too early any­way.

There’s rhubarb only just show­ing its scar­let knuck­les over an au­tumn top-dress­ing of com­posted ma­nure, but the chives seem to know some­thing I don’t — they are al­ready a brush of blue-green, even ahead of the grass.

The gar­lic is cer­tainly con­vinced it’s spring; the dark green shoots are al­most three inches above the soil, thick and short and solid like tulip leaves right now.

Not much else is in full bud yet. The ap­ple trees, new and old, still have their hard brown shells like bee­tle-backs, and lilacs have only just started to split the outer cas­ings of their buds.

But it’s light so early now that it’s hard not to be hope­ful for spring, and walk­ing to work, some of the trees are com­ing into leaf.

I’ve got my list al­ready: even­tu­ally, new ground to pre­pare and new rasp­berry canes to plant, and the out-of-town shed — a flat, sin­gle-storey barn/ shed with a stall for a very small horse — needs a new roof, a re­built chim­ney and clap­board re­placed in spots all the way around. Then, a paint job to match the house, green boards and yel­low trim.

There are lists I hate and there are lists I love. Lists that in­clude tak­ing the car for ser­vice and tire change, dead­lines for tax doc­u­ments, and the bills that have to be paid I can barely tol­er­ate, but a long list of even lengthy projects is great, as long as it makes me think of the smell of out­side af­ter a rain shower or the end-of-the-day ache of hon­estly-tired mus­cles.

We are trapped in the rote and the reg­u­lar, and we don’t even re­al­ize it. We con­di­tion our­selves, and our jobs and de­vices con­di­tion us even more. They have us im­merse our­selves in the triv­ial, the scat­ter of places to be, things to do, emails to read, mes­sages to an­swer; we be­come a means to the end of our own lives.

Some­times, you have to snatch some­thing like per­sonal vic­tory from dis­as­sem­bling a paint sprayer that came to you af­ter be­ing left filled with paint for 10 years, tak­ing it apart, clean­ing every spring and piece and valve, and fi­nally get­ting it to run again.

Some­times, you stop when you are re­point­ing the chim­ney, smell the dry dust-must of the mor­tar, and watch the robins march and pick fights on the lawn by steadily and con­stantly dis­re­gard­ing each other.

Some­times, you un­bun­dle a stack of zip-strapped clap­board and a shower of saw­dust falls from be­tween the long boards, and you can smell what it would be like if you were stand­ing in the sawmill it­self.

There’s a value in lists that are part of the long game, a col­lec­tion of eight or so tasks that stretch across an en­tire spring and sum­mer and some­times over­laps right into the fall. Get­ting ev­ery­thing done is some­times the worst of things. Putting the tools away for the fall is, for me, like pack­ing books in crates and plan­ning to move.

I talked to a man who, two weeks ago, told me about a man he knew who was dry-salt­ing a whole ham that will be ready … this time next year.

Now, isn’t that the essence of bend­ing fate to your own will?

I’m not sure I’m that con­fi­dent. I’m on the look­out for new things to add to my list.

I’m plant­ing Ken­nebecs, and trust­ing as far ahead as the fall.

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