Last weekend was the first where it was evident that spring has arrived. Warm winds had melted the remaining snow of Easter and my raised beds were no longer caked with a permafrost layer binding the soil in a frozen, unworkable mass. The gardens could now have their blanket of remains removed.
The first rake of the season is bittersweet as it reveals what didn’t make it through the winter while exposing that which did. Tops of light green iris shoots that have yet to be exposed to the sun show themselves. The hollowed out stems of $2.99 mums that didn’t survive get pulled into the straw and leaves that have been bedded down for the last five months. As the rake passes over the ground, dust flies bringing with it a pre-hay-season sneeze.
The flower beds require a careful rake with large and small tools to work around and through the emerging perennials. You poke and pull lightly with an uneven rhythm. The lawn requires the opposite approach to liberate the thatch and remind the sleeping grass that it is time to wake. You lean heavy on the rake and pull with hard and short stokes so the tines can scrape the soil and pull the detritus away. Piles of ephemeral fluff form a line waiting to be put into the compost pile. You can’t leave too much out for too long as either the dog or wind will disrupt the neatness of your line.
Just as you begin to see the difference in the raked lawn and its untouched counterpart, you start to notice the change in your hands. There is a small sensitivity near the space between your thumb and index finger and someplace on your palm. You don’t think about it until you notice at a break that it is raw and red. It doesn’t matter if you wear gloves or not. Sooner or later the fact that you have not grabbed a rake for nearly half a year will take its payment on your hands. If you are lucky, only one or two small blisters will greet you at the end of the day.
These abrasions and associated sore muscles are a small price to pay for the promise of fresh growth. The yard is poised to explode with a bit a water and warmth. You can’t wait so you keep working, looking to finish so the season can continue. The emerging green is just one of April’s sensory clues. The compost pile has started to warm giving off a festering smell of transformation. The touch of newly raked soil has a moist newness that is ready to feed any seed or plant. Early sorrel is more lemony than bitter and then there are the sounds. Unlike many of my neighbors, I don’t attach myself to an electronic appendage to drown out the surroundings. Instead I key into woodpecker’s rattle, the scrape of the rake against the ground and quiet rustle of last seasons remains being dropped into a pail for removal.