Friday’s Weekend Column
A Long and Short Year

by James Glaser
May 6, 2005

It seems hard for me to believe that Charmaine died a year ago this Sunday. Some days when I am working outside, I could believe she is in the house and at any moment she will be walking out with a cup of coffee for me and I will take a break. It doesn't happen and I have a time of sadness. Other times I will feel like she is there with me and I feel good all over.

About the only blessing that I can think of with her death, is that she was ready to die. She chose to go into the Hospice Program and she had no doubt about where she was going after she left her body and that gave her a lot of peace. I can feel good about that too, but some how I still feel cheated, because she isn't here with me.

I was cleaning out Charmaine's favorite flower garden today and I can remember her talking to those flowers and how mad she would get if the deer got in there. One year she used a couple spools of fishing line and fenced in the whole thing. It looked dreadful, but every flower bloomed out. Last year I never touched that garden and the flowers looked the best they ever did and the deer left it alone.

Last spring, I never did get the yard cleaned up and last fall I was trying to learn how to walk again after my accident, so this spring there were a couple years of yard debris to get rid of. It is starting to get dry here and I thought I better call the DNR and see if it would be all right if I burned leaves in a container. I was told, "Absolutely not" and the forester told me that they had planes up looking for smoke and if they saw mine and called him, he would have to ticket me. I told him I understood.

So, I am bagging the leaves in some huge paper bags the hardware store sells and putting them behind the workshop and will probably add them to the compost pile as I put in green grass clippings and cuttings from the garden.

We haven't had a spring rain yet and it is close to bone dry, but the weeds are flourishing. If the ground was soggy from rain they would be easy to pull and now is the time to do that, but as it is, they just break off at ground level. I think I will hook up the hose and soak each garden and try and make every flower garden look good. Every time I take on a job like that, I realize just how much work Charmaine did around here.

Sometimes I feel weird working on these gardens, but then I think about how really nice it is too. Watching things grow is nice, but actually I like working with the plants, taking into consideration scale, color, and setting. Some call for full sun and some like shade. Some plants want acidic soil and others alkaline. If you do it right, a garden can turn into a sculpture. Parts of mine are looking pretty good after several years of working on them, but I don't have one yet that I think looks just right and maybe I never will. That is OK though and is the reason gardening can become so addictive.

Tonight after dinner I was outside looking at the lake and a Bald Eagle came floating across the sky right above me and he came into view and passed out of sight without flapping his wings even one time. He looked majestic. There were lots of changes this week. All of a sudden there are ducks all over the lake and in the water filled ditches. The loons are out doing their mating calls and the deer are thick along the roadside. I haven't heard the frogs yet, but then I haven't seen any bugs yet either.

Farmers are in their fields, Gardeners are tilling soil and planting will start real soon. Charmaine would walk through the fresh tilled garden every day and when the soil felt just right to her, we planted. It has to be warm enough and moist enough to get the best seed germination. Too cold or too wet and the seeds rot. To hot and to dry and the seeds stay dormant. I will try my hand or I should say my feet at it this year.

I was thinking Sunday I would visit Charmaine's grave and I would if I could, but she donated her body to a medical school. In a couple of years I will get back her ashes and I will be putting them in the Raspberry Patch. It sits out in the sun, is away from the road, and near the woods. I will have to come up with some sort of plaque that will tell people something about her and I have been working on the words, but I don't have them just right yet.

Every May 8th I go swimming and I checked the water today and it is cold. I started this when I was living up on the Big Fork River on a year that was very warm. The river was low and the water was warm because the sun would hit the sand on the bottom and that would warm up the water. That year it was easy, some years are very brisk, in fact last year there was still some ice on the shore and my dip in was quick. I think I did it last year because Charmaine had died that morning and I needed a shock to get me going and that cold water did the trick. If she was watching, she was laughing at me about then, like she had on other years.

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