Climbing to altitude is like walking back in time.
I dwell in a valley 1,000 feet above sea level, where spring is greening into summer.
Even before the snow left the ground, we pruned the fruit trees and berry bushes. Wearing hats and fleece, we replanted the fence and reseeded the grass where the snowplow tore up the ground.
Before April ended, we’d harvested and eaten the overwintered parsnips, carrots and spinach, and by early May, we’d planted all the cold hardy crops: lettuce, parsley, parsnips, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, shallots, leeks, beets, carrots, kale, spinach, chard and peas. The mint returned, creeping across the garden path, and two warm days in a row seduced us into sticking beans and cucumber seeds in the ground days before the last frost. All survived.
Memorial Day arrived. We celebrated by taking a hike.
To avoid holiday traffic, we drove steep, back roads to the trail head, gaining fifteen hundred feet of altitude before we even stepped into the pale woods.
It was the first hike of the season; after a month of digging, it took a few strides to straighten up, unfurl our backs and look around.
As we gained altitude, we slid back in time. Alongside the trail, we spied trout lily, claytonia, trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpits, and hobblebush galore, all flowers that had bloomed and wilted along our riverbank more than a month ago, when our backs were bent to our gardening chores. How delightful to admire the flowers that appeared without any effort on our part, save hiking the trail.
Light filtered through the new leaves, which hung limp and only partially unfurled, allowing us to re-experience the magic of rebirth a second time this year. The effort of climbing seemed restful after all those days forking compost and mulch. The temperature dropped as we gained altitude, so we were
comfortable until we reached the rock outcrop at the top, when the mugginess of the day descended, and we were swarmed by black flies.
We retreated, admiring the flowers as we walked out of April and back into May. Back
home, the mature leaves cast blue shadows across the lawn where we sat and drank the first beer of the season. Must be Summer’s almost here.
Deborah Lee Luskin has been Living in Place in southern Vermont since 1984.