Earth Journal:

Untimely Things

by Audrey Y. Scharmen

There is chaos in the garden where camellias have languished since Christmas: throughout the long wet weeks of winter, their rosy heads heavy with rain, their satin leaves sparkling with droplets, their presence - untimely.

Azaleas bloomed prematurely as well, their biological clocks in shambles, their blossoms sparse and puny.

In place of the cold, clean scent of lingering snow, we had an eerie fragrance of sweet alyssum, the sharp pungence of pelargoniums and flowering arugula from a porchside plot. Over all was the musty odor of fecundity - of too many things growing out of turn in a strange, extended autumn.

Wizened little violets - ragged and unkempt - roamed aimlessly beside the fences. They had lost their place to sprouts of sedum quite out of sync. The daffodils came early and are stressed, their yellow heads bowed on stems too fragile to support them.

They are tired. They needed weeks of deep sleep beneath a blanket of snow: the rejuvenation of defined seasons, deep-snow winters, ebullient springs, hot summers and chill autumns.

So does their caregiver. She is unaccustomed to pulling weeds and nursing newborns in early March. She has old muscles and stiff joints with too many miles on them.

Is it too late to apologize to Mother Earth for our misdeeds and ask her to line up the seasons neatly, to put them back where they once were? This is what she mutters as she creeps about the muddy beds, trying to restore order, floundering on soggy ground made even more unstable by the wanderings of the wakeful ones tunneling beneath. They have not slept either; they too need a long rest, she grumbles.

In gathering twilight, she glances anxiously above, at a naked bough on a tall tree where hang the remains of an enormous wasp nest stripped of its silken shroud by maddened winds that prowled the shore all winter in search of a blizzard. The nest is a wondrous work - a simple papier mache structure that has survived the violence of the past season. The architecture is of another time, a nether world, its perfectly symmetrical rows of cells like those of an ancient cliff dwelling - or a space ship.

She imagines a thousand pairs of sleeping eyes within the amazing incubator and she wonders what wild winged things it will spawn in the coming spring - if there be a spring.

The daylight lingers, she sees the constellations emerge from their proper places and hears from the nearby marsh the joyful noise of peepers.

And the hive moves subtly to and fro in the windless garden


- Audrey Scharmen reflects from Lusby.

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VolumeVI Number 11
March 19-25, 1997
New Bay Times

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