nature writing part 11 (bluebells)
Posted February 16th, 2018 by Swallowtail
in new york/massachusetts
The first hint of spring in the muddy yard is always the bluebells. They push tiny green spikes up through the dirt. At first we almost step on them, sometimes this is how we discover they are here. When I was little, I would always draw big circles in the dirt around clumps of them, trying to prevent them from being accidentally crushed. Then my brother, seeing the marks drawn around them, would proceed to stomp on the tiny green pinpricks, shredding the tightly folded leaves and grinding them back into the dirt in tatters. More always grew outside the circles, springing up faster than I could mark them and protecting themselves from destruction. They grow thickest around the roots of one of the Norwegian maples, the one that has grown right through the rusted fence in the back corner of our yard. I used to spend spring afternoons perched on top of the roots where I built little houses of twigs and moss around the bluebells, while they were still just green spikes, some of them split at the top into two waxy leaves. The grass grew as they did, pale and stringy but growing, and the buds suddenly appeared on every branch, filling the trees with promises. Then one day, I would go out and there would be blue, shocking among hazy green and brown. I spent hours among the bluebells, gently lifting blue blossoms up towards me so I could see the inside of the bells, the faint stripes of white and purple and the dark centers. When I released them, they nodded back down softly, shy and lovely. Our neighbor’s yard always has had more bluebells, and in the spring it is a thick carpet of blue and purple, more tiny bells than I could ever count. I always wanted to go lay down under her pine shrub and look out at the tiny forest of a thousand colors. But our yard has the soaring trees and the wild pansies, and besides, I loved my tattered bluebells. I picked them carefully, one here and there, never taking all of them from one clump, and brought them inside to place in thick little glasses with dark blue bases and rims. They always looked wrong inside under our orange light, darker and smaller than they were. Then they shriveled and died, and when they were too sad all wilted in their glass prisons, I carried them carefully outside and tossed them into the stick pile at the very edge of our yard. They would lay here slowly shrinking smaller and smaller until I didn’t look over at them anymore, and sometime I know they returned to the earth, sinking into the rich black loam that only existed there. This black earth spilled out from our pile, made of sticks and leaves, vegetable scraps and flowers. It sunk into the fine lines of my skin every summer, and as I scrubbed it off I thought of the bluebells.
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