B.B. Boudreau

Novelist | Singer

Return to the Source

Last Day of March. Most of my garden has been cleaned. Only the edges of the driveway remain cocooned in last year’s leaves, a heavy blanket that resists the rake. Those shielding leaves take their job seriously, layering perfectly in alternate patterns, allowing the spring rain to percolate through. When the emerging shoots are finally exposed, their white skin and wobbly form give me pause, but I know they will survive. A couple of days of sun will green them up and straighten them right out.

I need this kind of tactile activity now. The smell of newly born plants, the aroma of the recently thawed soil. I uncovered my compost pile and discovered that winter has done its job. The soil beneath is deeply black, littered with broken egg shell pieces, which I don’t mind at all going into my garden. My shovel pushes effortlessly into the pile and transfers a scoop to the screen. It is methodical, mesmerizing. After the wheelbarrow has a good load, I push it carefully into place beside the bed and throw shovelfuls that spread out on impact. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, and all the juicy vitamins will be released to the roots below ground level.  The action of this exercise provides catharsis for my frazzled nerve endings. My movements are slow and deliberate, allowing me to work longer than my compromised back will generally permit. I’m just so happy to be out here doing work that is so calming and rewarding.

More than any other time in modern history do we need time in nature and the healing power of the earth. Isn’t it amazing that right now everywhere in nature is perceived to be safe, while everything associated with people is deemed toxic? That’s a twist. Rewind to last summer during tick season and outbreaks of the various mosquito-borne baddies: EEE and West Nile, and the perception was completely reversed.

Sure, things in nature can kill us, and in reality, corona came from animals, didn’t it?

I’ve had Lyme twice and malaria several times. These are also diseases that will kill a person without any treatment. And they can lay dormant in the body for some time. But we have treatments for both diseases. When I was in Africa in 1993 and 1995, everyone who got sick was treated for malaria. If it was malaria, you would get better. If it wasn’t malaria, you would at least enjoy being malaria-free.

This COVID episode is very different because we don’t have a cure, a vaccine, or anything really beyond ICU care; fluids to reduce dehydration, acetaminophen for the fever, ventilators and tents for oxygen and isolation. Wow. Then just wait for it to subside.

As the days go by, the news on TV sounds direr, but the lack of change in my own world makes it feel safer. I know that is a fairytale. I know it is out there, possibly even within my own body right at this moment.

Crocus: one of our first New England spring bloomers

And all we can do is to wait. Watch birds. Garden. Dig in the dirt. Take walks. Breathe in fresh outside air.  In other words, those things that human beings were originally designed to do.

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