Rhubarb

I step out onto the patio in bare feet. The wet concrete provides not a chill but a sense of refreshment. Birds chirp away at each other in the large cedar tree and the sky has that dusky pink blue color of promise. A sunny day will be given to the rain weary people of Seattle. I walk to the edge of the garden to say hello to my rhubarb plant. It grows inches overnight and its large tropical like leaves are always inviting me to come closer, waving me in on a gentle breeze. I squat and gingerly move aside one of the elephant ear sized leaves. I’m impressed with the beauty of the shiny red stalks but it’s the babies inside that have fascinated and impressed me and made me smile and laugh out loud with glee and stand up quickly. I look to my left and to my right. The birds have quieted and I imagine them watching me. I wish there was someone else here; someone to nod with wide eyed wonder and be impressed by the new growth. I kneel at the edge of the plant and the birds resume their chatter. I’m not crazy—just a grateful gardener. I spread the leaves again and there it is; a pale green fist. Just like a newborn baby’s hand in a tight grasp. I am amazed at its intricacy and I want to touch it but I don’t for fear my humanness would somehow disrupt its journey. This won’t last. By mid-day the fist will unfurl and fight its way to the surface where it will join the others in a mad race to grow and grow and grow.

The air feels warm for the first time in months. I open the door to the old shed and breathe in the dank smell of damp wood and fertilizer. Clay pots marked with the names of herbs, small rolls of wired fencing, empty seed packets and an array of garden tools whose wooden handles are old and faded and nearly as soft as driftwood line the side of the shed. They stand like old men, full of history and wisdom but no stamina. A broken old shovel mended with black electric tape and the name Jerry Ristine painted in blue on the handle is propped in the corner. I lift it and carefully back out of the shed tapping the shovel as I go to scare away any bugs or spiders. I turn the soil easily. It’s dark, rich and well cared for. I stand and arch my back and listen as a slow breeze blows through the pines. The sound is almost like ocean waves. The birds flit and fly by and the squirrels are either excited or irritated that I’ve overturned a patch of dirt they may have claimed as their own. I have no shoes on but it doesn’t matter. My feet are smudged and dirty and I think I feel the movement of a worm under my big toe. I turn my eyes again to the rhubarb. I want to peer again at the baby inside, to marvel at change and growth and renewal. I want to take the translucent green fist and hold it in the palm of my hand.

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