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Getting our hands dirty

June 4, 2013
By RANDY LEWIS , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

What is it about the sound of rain falling on a tin roof that soothes my soul? I have no idea, but many others agree with me. It's not the same as rain on a traditional roof, or a slate roof, or even a tent deep in the woods. The plunk-plunk sound is like ideas resonating, little thoughts. And sometimes it sounds like permission to let all thoughts go, just relax and let the rain fall.

In the Adirondacks we've had multiple opportunities to enjoy the sound of rain on the roof lately. When compared to the dusty dryness of a drought, this spate of wet weather has been refreshing, and has brought the color green to our senses just when we needed it.


Flowering trees

We have been surprised and delighted at the abundance of flowers on our apple trees this spring. Apples have their seasonal cycles, and last year we had very few apples to enjoy. (None, in fact, since the bears ate the few that grew to fruit adulthood.) But this year, with a gigantic number of fragrant flowers on each limb, they are making up for lost time. Different trees are blossoming at different times, so there is a perpetual cascade of sweet fragrance and white and pink flowers, some holding tight, some tumbling to the ground like spring snow.

Lilacs are blossoming, enriching the senses of everyone who passes by their mighty bushes. Lilacs have a lot of fans, and they come in lots of colors, with different intensities of perfume. They are famous for bringing smiles, even to the most curmudgeonly types of people.


Humans and their gardening

Apart from short observations of the season like this, I've also noticed the human factor. Sure, we've had some rain. But when the rain stops, and warmth and light return, people open their doors and walk outside. They get out their rakes and spades and begin their love affair with the grounds they have access to. For some it's a huge yard, for others a porch and some window boxes. But we go out, and we add to the bounty of spring.

Even after several weeks of spring fever weather, there is still a little caution when deciding what is okay to leave outdoors for the season. Memorial Day was early this spring. And of course, then it got quite cold, cold enough to drop three feet of snow on Whiteface Mountain. So traditional "plant garden on Memorial Day" folks might have used some caution when considering what to plant and what to wait for. I am waiting another couple of days to plant everything in my vegetable garden. A little winter-weary still, I think.

But, I put half my houseplants outside when it was really warm several weeks ago. I have brought them back in four times already, being my own version of eager beaver, secretly hoping that if the plants were outside, the weather would be kind. We truly are not safe from frost until mid-June. And that's coming from an optimist's point of view!


Flowers and their humans

I bought two hanging baskets of flowers, and a couple of flats of annuals to put in containers out back. When I plant flower seeds, invariably the squirrels, chipmunks, and other natural residents are compelled to dig up or chew on the little green shoots. So I buy flower and they generally last all summer long.

While shopping for my flowers, I was in the company of a dozen like-minded people. I overheard their talk, about what they wanted to plant, and where, and what plants like full sun and which like partial shade. Some wondered about hanging plants, or should they go with planters? And how to fill the window boxes this year, we really liked the lobelia from last year .and on. We are all trying to bring color and light to the natural world outside our windows.

Planting lettuce, spinach, and kale, trimming hedges and trees, pruning roses, buying tomato plants, mowing lawns, planting flowers in backyard flowerpots, bringing indoor plants outside for their season in the sun-all are spring chores we relish. Even when black flies and mosquitoes haunt our every move, there is something deep inside us that wants to be involved in growing things. We live in an abundance of riches, with trees and bushes and wildflowers everywhere. And lucky for us, we've had the rain that all growing things require to succeed.

So next rain, stop for a minute and listen for its sound on your roof. See if it doesn't sound peaceful. Here's to more spring weather and the joy of working outside, surrounded by it. Peace and comfort are there for you if you just let it in.


Randy Lewis lives in Paul Smiths, and is the author of "Actively Adirondack: Reflections of Mountain Life in the 21st Century," Adirondack Center for Writing's People's Choice Award for Best Book 2007.



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