Years ago I dug up what I thought were a few paper whites which had been blooming in a little circle in my yard. There was a mass of bulbs, I discovered, grown tightly against each other. I read instructions, separated them, counting as I went, collecting them in groups of ten, then hundreds. Some I gave away to people who either more carefully followed directions or didn't at all, who reported back to me the next year they had scores of fragrant blooms.
Mine, divided and spaced, fed and watered, sent up green shoots. More, planted along one side of the road that runs up through my front lot, spaced with a stick dropped by Shad, the golden retriever I had at the time, did the same. Wait, I told myself, they need a year, then a couple of years, to take nourishment from their leaves, to regain their strength.
They came up every spring, teased, then faded into the greenery, their hopeful green buds withering into dry tan paper. Once in a while one would produce a bloom, a single white flower, offering more hope.
There are more this year, if not in the yard in that other long stretch and I decided to walk down to the start of my road, near the turn from Mansion, where I know there are sparse but real flowers. Birdsong fills the air even at mid-day. There is the gentle cooing of the doves that flit from ridgepole to ridgepole, so persistent and loud with the doors open that at first I think the sound is the fog horn I never used to notice. I never learned to distinguish the songs of the other birds darting about, the swooping swallows, the sailing red-wings, laced with a multitude of brown sparrow and wrens, but they and their voices are abundant, from the first fingers of daylight.
It is almost June and the fresh grass in the pasture, both recovered and grown from new seed, has already turned, the self-seeding heads waving in the slight breeze. Somewhere in the distance I hear the busy hum of a lawn mower or trimmer, always a constant this time of year, and especially so after these endless rains.
The air is sweet with the scent of grass, cut along the roadsides and in yards. It is cool but sunny, a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
Autumn is on alert, looking over to the wild thicket remaining on one side of the road, greatly diminished from what it was a year ago, surrounded by land in various stages of being cleared. I pay her little mind, as long as she does not try to go out onto the Mansion Road; she is always off on some supposed adventure, like a child searching for dragons in the trees or pirates behind the bushes.
I am looking at the swath of defiant and determined grass growing up in the middle of the road, greenery that has been covered with three layers of fill over the past several years, at the spots in the new riding ring that are sprouting green, despite the greedy birds, and at the soft hills. There is a noise that sounds mechanical but not quite, but what else can it be and I always attribute such noises to the neighbors, or when the wind is slight, the moving of metal at the transfer station on the far side of the Neck. Still, it lacks the proper resonance, lying somewhere between animal and mineral.
It ceases and goes out of my mind for a few seconds when motion catches my eye. Autumn runs out of the brush with a deer. My sweet, gentle dog seems unaware this is not a game and rolls on the ground to play, the way she does with the dogs who often come along when the horses are fed and for an instant I have a horrifying vision of sharp hooves being raised.
This happened once before, years and years ago, with another big golden, who had the sense to keep running after he'd found a fawn, or I always supposed that was what had happened, the baby the source of the odd sound, and the reason for the defensive doe, chasing the invader from the brush and her hidden off-spring. That usually bold dog ran up to and stood behind me and I found myself yelling at the deer to leave him alone.
This doe was smaller than the one in my memory, not much larger than Autumn, but her flailing hooves frightened me, perhaps enough that my dog heard something different in my voice and scrambled away from her.
Still, she was not as frightened as I would have liked, she didn't come all the way back to me, instead kept turning, hopefully, as the deer vanished into the brush, and only then reluctantly did Autumn follow me, shadowing my way down the road to the flowers near the gate that had been my destination before that distraction.
There are, this year, in total, eleven white blooms, from all the multiple stands, some with as many as sixteen sear, failed, buds to them. It has only taken three decades to have this many flowers.
The view is different, headed back toward the house, the trees in the yard that in winter are no more than dark spider webs, obscuring little, are thickly green, reminding me the newly open view of the road from my windows is gone, again, for a few months. I welcome the loss for this busy season, knowing it will last only for the summer, the busy summer of traffic and the dust it sends rolling up from the Mansion Road.
My living room wall needs painting, but that it had turned green surprised me, then I realized it was the cast of the leaves outside the windows, filtering the light, the same way they do every year, and I discover anew each spring.