At one point in the middle of February, the big ficus tree I bought last year for the greenhouse started losing its leaves, and the shedding was steady, and it unnerved me.
No matter what I did, the leaf fall continued, and every morning the tree’s branches looked emptier and emptier. There was nothing I could do to halt the sudden collapse of its foliage.
Part of my unease was that the indoor plants I keep protected in a greenhouse are allies of a sort, a landscape apart, and for me, they are defenses against something I cannot really name.
And how many other partners do I gather around for security: keepsakes, old letters, favorite pieces of clothing, books, photographs journals, even comfort foods. In so many ways I am allied with the objects around me. And, in some strange sense, all of them are animate, whether they be stones or geraniums or my dog Bella or my cat Monk or all the people, living and dead, in the garden of my family.
They are all fragments of the barrier I have constructed in order to create my identity, a mosaic insulation of spirit, and an illusion of power, order, connection, caring, beauty, meaning. And I know that this whole structure of alliances and bonds is a fantasy, and I know it will collapse if something goes awry.
Still, now that spring is so close, I am less dismayed by sick trees and lack of control. My moods are as fickle as foliage, and are always reconfigured by a few pussy willows, some blooming snowdrops and a warming wind.
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the fifth week of early spring. In the meantime, hold your allies close.
Thursday noons between March 20 and April 24, Bill Felker will be the moderator of a seminar at the University of Dayton entitled “The Inner Landscape,” discussions about his Poor Will's Almanack readings on WYSO. For more information, call the Special Programs office at the University of Dayton, (937)229-2605.