Saturday last was a glorious, windless, sunny day of almost 70ºF here on the Kansas prairie, a premature peek at the spring season before winter rallies once again. ProfessorRoush took advantage of the good-natured weather to begin his spring chores and he bounded madly out with shears, sprayer and sheetbarrow to work for a few cherished hours.
As I removed vast tons of brown winter debris, trimmed a few roses, sprayed the fruit trees with dormant oil, and puttered here and yon with gleeful abandon, I also spent some time in general pondering, mulling once more over the beginning of another year in an aging but happy life. And it occurred to me that, other than merely making my muscles sore and strained, the measure of my accomplishments on this Saturday could be calculated in beds. In all, I cleared the debris from 7 beds, or about 3 of the 4 sides of the house. It was thus a record day, a 7-bed day, in the annals of my gardening life.
It seems to me that one can ultimately measure one's health, aging processes, and perhaps even the advancement of one's wisdom by keeping track of the number of beds one can clean on a first day of spring. I was certainly pleased on this Saturday that there was no measurable decrease in the number of beds I was able to clear from last year. In fact, I was even more productive than ever, a gain that I would like to attribute to working wiser, not harder, as I age. Certainly, I surprised even myself by finding that the abrasion of time has yet to seriously cramp my gardening agenda.
While mulling, my thoughts also turned to how many of the decades of man can also be measured by a number in beds. As a child, happiness is roughly equivalent to the number of warm and safe beds into which one has been snugly and tightly tucked. Active pre-teen and teenage males often measure their vitality in the number of uncomfortable but adventurous beds they make in tents or under stars. Young adult men of my post-hippie generation (and likewise those of all generations reaching back to the Babylonians), measure their victories in the number of strange beds in which one spent a night, a contest that I gladly surrendered to others after I discovered the joys of repeated moments in the embrace of Mrs. ProfessorRoush. Here in middle age, I'm happy counting in gardening beds, but I recognize that life by garden beds can only last so long. Old men, too, have a different sort of measure by beds; the measure of how many hospital beds one either avoids or is forced into.
The latter, though is in the future for this gardener. Today is the feel of sunshine, the buttery yellow of the first snow crocus, warm mulch beneath my knees, and sharp shears in my hands.