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Bonnie Brown: Spring is Here!

Spring is here! And how do I know that, you ask? Well, it has nothing to do with that silly groundhog Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction. I know that because as I sit here in my recliner, I can see my neighbor Deena’s yard, and there it is: the weeping willow tree with its sweeping, graceful branches proclaiming that spring is here.

Neighbor Deena Heath’s Weeping Willow Tree

Deena’s tree is magnificent. It has survived even though a neighbor lost two weeping willow trees to beavers several years ago. This lovely tree has also survived many summer storms with its wispy branches and leaves playing in the wind. After such a cold, wet winter, this beautiful tree provides reassurance that better days are ahead.
I also know that it’s spring because we all want to go digging in the dirt.
My dad was the worst. He always was the first in our neighborhood to till up the garden plot and knew no limit about the amount he should plant. He enlisted the help of my mother, my two brothers and me to bring his vision to life.
We lived along a creek, and I vividly recall one spring when my dad handed off more than 100 tomato plants to my mother and me to plant while he continued plowing. My mother and I looked at one another, rolled our eyes and got to work. We planted row after row and toward the end of the last row my dad had readied for the tomato plants, we still had quite a few plants. We seemed to decide that these last few plants needed to be disposed of and without a spoken word, we pitched them over the bank. Done! Or at least, we thought the deed was done. Wouldn’t you know it? A few weeks later as my dad was surveying the growing tomato plants, he noticed that several tomato plants had taken root and were growing along the bank. He was quite puzzled as to how that might have happened. We didn’t confess.  
It used to be when I was growing up, nearly everyone had a garden. We raised much of what we ate. Nowadays, this new generation thinks that “farm to table” is a new concept. It’s not. My dad who loved his garden would actually hop in the car and drive up and down the road to see our neighbors’ gardens. It was competition to see how our garden was doing compared to others in our neighborhood. Whose tomatoes were ripening, whose corn was taller, whose potatoes were ready to dig?
He took a lot of pride in the vegetables he raised for his family. It’s a lot of work for sure. I remember thinking that I never wanted a garden, especially as I stood washing the jars we used to can tomatoes and beans. My hand was small, and I was very good at that job. But wouldn’t you know it? When I married and was raising my children, my husband and I did as our parents had done, and we planted a garden … a big garden, complete with strawberries, peanuts and yes, even a few stalks of sugar cane, along with lots of vegetables. Yes, it was hard work, picking and shelling peas and butter beans, and shucking corn. We were always looking for shortcuts but alas, there weren’t many. Someone told us that you could blanch ears of corn in the dishwasher. They also said that you could wash turnip greens in the washing machine. Just be sure you ran a load of clear water after so your underwear didn’t turn green from the residue of the turnip greens. We shared these shortcuts with my husband’s uncle who tried them when he returned to his home state of Texas. He laughingly reported that he had gotten the “shortcuts” a little mixed up and nearly ruined his washing machine by putting the corn in there. The spin cycle was brutal!
Daughter-in-law Lillie Brown’s garden last spring

Spring is a time of renewal. It’s a time when we clean out to begin anew. This rejuvenation is both literal and symbolic. Not only does it apply to our closets and general household but in a larger sense, we should view this as an opportunity to hit the reset button in other areas of our life. Perhaps our New Year resolutions have fallen by the wayside. But our resolve to change is rekindled by the promise of spring, this change of season that is so inspiring. Yes, we can clean the windows, wash and wax the car and organize, but we also need to cast aside the winter doldrums and clear out our mental clutter, too. By doing so, we can enjoy life more. This “spring cleaning” is very liberating. We can more easily discard not only “things” but find ways to prioritize and simplify our lives.
Maybe it helps that there’s more sunlight, thanks in part to daylight saving time. And it’s great to be able to get out in the great outdoors, take a walk or just sit and enjoy the warmer temperatures. Winter keeps us mostly indoors, so it’s great to break free of the confines of our houses. Spring invites possibilities. Enter into this renewal season with enthusiasm and optimism!  

Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.
For questions or comments, email hottytoddynews@gmail.com.

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