Hope for a New Day

Calendula planted last fall

Dear Friends,

Happy Ostara, the celebration of the vernal equinox, which takes place this year today, March 20. Searching for spring festivals and hoping for inspiration, I found one from Iran.

“In Iran, the festival of NowRuz begins shortly before the vernal equinox. The phrase “NowRuz” actually means “new day,” and this is a time of hope and rebirth.

Boy, am I feeling the need for hope and rebirth right now.

“The Iranian new year begins on the day of the equinox, and typically people celebrate by getting outside for a picnic or other activity with their loved ones. NowRuz is deeply rooted in the beliefs of Zoroastrianism, which was the predominant religion in ancient Persia before Islam came along.”

Getting outside — yes! The vernal equinox must be celebrated outdoors.

Another inspiration comes from my neighbors, many of whom are my age, in their 70s. In Santa Rosa people take their gardens and landscaping seriously. When I walk down the street and see Dan and Karen tending their gardens or Howie down on the ground pulling weeds, or Pam planting natives in her front yard, or Susan wielding digging tools I think yeah I can do that too!

Gardening and planting plants — what a great way to celebrate spring!

I’ve always seen myself as a big strong woman and I’ve spent my adult life telling other women working in the construction trades “We Can Do It!” Admitting that I can’t do something is still hard for me, even though I’ve been practicing it for a decade now. At 72 I discover new limits to my ability constantly.

So, after Holly and I acknowledged to each other that there are some garden chores we just can’t do anymore, we hired a laborer to dig out crab grass, matilija poppy roots and a couple of stumps.

There is also this: I don’t want to do it. I might have felt like I had to in the past, or I was required to show that I could meet some physical challenge. Now I no longer have to make a point.

Or that’s what I thought before Maximo, the laborer, weighed in on my ability. He was digging out the poppy roots with an adz. I said to him, “that’s such hard work.” I knew this because I had dug out the roots a couple years before and found the job taxing.

“Yes,” he said, “you couldn’t do this.”

My hackles went up immediately. What do you mean I can’t do it! I thought to myself. He had said that as he worked without even looking at me. What was it about me that made him think I couldn’t do the work? Gray hair? My gender? To me them’s fightin’ words.

So of course after that I had to do it to prove I still could. I decided to start celebrating spring a little early, on the Ides of March. I know the last day of frost in Santa Rosa is April 15 but I can never wait that long and I figure global warming has moved it up at least a couple of weeks. And I was willing to take a chance. If my seedlings froze I’d just have to start over.

Holly had ordered seedlings from Annie’s Annuals and we set out to plant them in the front yard, which required squatting for long periods.

Look, I’m not decrepit and I’m proud that I can still pee in the woods and get up off my haunches (except for that one time after a back operation when my quads were so weak I needed help from a tree). But peeing is a short operation and planting takes longer. Especially since I get obsessed with pulling out the bermuda grass roots, an unending task (I do know we will never be rid of them).

After working at it for a while and feeling pretty good about my athletic ability, my neck and my hands started sending pain signals. Then suddenly the muscles in my legs objected, seizing up and screaming for me to move, but I was stuck in the position. Oh My Goddess I can’t get up!

I remembered the episode of Grace and Frankie where both Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda fell and couldn’t get up. They both raced for the phone by swimming across the floor on their backs. And the episode when Jane pulls a MacGyver, lassoing a sculpture to pull herself up off the toilet. If only my elderly exploits could be so funny!

I rolled over to get up the way they teach old people to do and I finished the job on hands and knees.

I did it! Not very gracefully, but I did it.

In the meantime Holly had finished her part of the planting without mishap, but she is a decade younger than I.

Acknowledging that I might not be so good at planting seedlings, I can still throw seeds around the garden and rake them into the dirt while standing up. And that’s what I did last fall for cover crops of mustard, red clover, calendula and fava beans. Now they are flowering and I’m appreciating the fruits of my labor.

Maybe next year I’ll find a new way to celebrate the advent of spring, something I can do while standing upright.

In the meantime I wish you all NowRuz Mobarak — Happy New Year. May this be the start of a new day.

Sending love to you all,

Molly (and Holly)

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Molly Martin

Molly Martin

I’m a long-time tradeswoman activist and retired electrician/electrical inspector in San Francisco.