COMMENTARY: An Earthday of Equinoctial Enjoyment

by Perry Mann
April 3rd dawned with the full moon appearing like a perfect pearl atop the ridge of a hump mountain. It was the first full moon after the equinox and thus the prelude to Good Friday and Easter
. The weather was warm and the sky was starlit, all of which presaged a day to enjoy and remember.


My day was in the hands of fate, for I had no plans except what she decided. When I went to the post office she stepped in and decided the matter: I was delivered a box in which were 24 strawberry and 10 asparagus plants. By now the sun was up and the world was warm and bright. The sky had the blue of infinity but veiled with gossamer.  With nothing else pressing, I made plans to go to the farm and plant the plants, knowing the earlier they were in the ground the better chance they had to survive. 


At the farm I entered Spring’s haven. The meadows were Irish green and lush from the recent rains. The herd of blacks, browns and whitefaces, were all grazing in one direction with heads to ground, not standing with brute patience, heads up, waiting for a hand out as they were just a few weeks ago. The mockingbirds were at their fence-post residences winging up and settling down and making mock music. The barn swallows, Top Guns of the Avian Corps, were displaying their inimitable maneuvers. The bluebirds were in and out of a hole in a dead tree. The phoebes with bobbing tails came and went nest-building. And the robins, heads up, breasts out, hopped and looked and listened  and hopped again, to look and listen some more.


 The garden which I had earlier plowed twice looked rich and damp. I had covered most of it with horse manure last fall and the treatment was evident: Where I had planted onions, lettuce, spinach and peas, I found them all up and healthy looking. The strawberry patch I planted two years ago had resurrected from a freezing winter and had a few blooms in it.


After noting all this, I set to work to do what I had come to do: plant the new strawberry and the asparagus plants. Since I had plowed, fertilized and laid off in anticipation of the arrival of the strawberry plants, I had now only to hoe hills for 24 plants and plant them. I did the hilling and then dropped a plant at each hill and proceeded to spade and finger the plants in. It was a sort of tucking them in a bed for the night but in this case for the season. My bones are old and my musculature out of exercise so I went about the tucking in with snail deliberation. I would drop to one knee and do the spading from that position. Then I would arise slowly and move to the next hill, drop to one knee and so on until all were tucked in. Now it is up to nature, my partner in this venture.


  With the strawberries set aside, I turned my attention to the asparagus plants. Planting asparagus is a different works from planting strawberries. An asparagus patch properly planted and cultivated will continue after a year or so to produce table-size asparagus for years.


 So first I bring the heavy tiller to the patch and plow deeply. Then I bring the smaller tiller with a furrow blade attached and plow a deep furrow. Having heretofore with shovel and bucket scrounged around the pasture collecting cow piles, I distribute the manure in the ditch; then with a posthole digger I dig 10 holes. I pour rainwater in each hole and then drop an asparagus plant in each. Finally, I spade and tuck the plants in and cover the whole with loose soil. This year if all goes well the plants will be thin and willowy but not large enough to eat. When they mature and a plant comes up and is cut for the table, a message goes down to send another up to receive the life-giving light of the sun. And up one comes.


By now the weather is so warm, I remove my shirt. The equinoctial sun is benign and feels therapeutic on my bare torso and the winds from the South caress instead of push. I look up from the work and note a cherry tree in its full wedding-day glory and think of A. E. Housman’s poem “Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now.”  Enthralled with the beauty of the tree at Eastertide, Housman counts the years he has remaining to view it. He takes twenty, his age, from seventy, the Biblical allotment, and writes: “And since to look at things in bloom / Fifty springs are little room, / About the woodlands I will go / To see the cherry hung with snow.”


Housman lived to be 77 so he had 57 years of room to go about the woodlands and see the cherry trees in Easter dress. At 86, my years left of seeing my cherry in wedding attire are few. But I have had nine more than Housman. For that I am grateful.


After the work, I sat on the porch of the 100-year-old farmhouse and viewed all of spring’s wonders and beauties. None of the noise, rush, madness or trash of modern life spoiled the quiet and sights. The world was its greenest green on land and the forests had that altered look. The birds were busy and the bees vied with them for the title of the busier. The cherry tree was alive with bees and other insect seeking the sweets of blooms. The whole of the world was in a wedding, a wedding that would serve to propagate it with a new generation of every living thing. As I sat there I had the wish for more room, like say, fifty years more.


Thus ended the gift of the equinox, a day spent in grass-root activities amid a confluence and conjunction of weather and place one would pray for, doing that which is basic to life: seeding the soil with plants designed to provide food for the planter.  


Editor's note: That was four yearss ago. Perry Mann recently celebrated his 90th birthday. He is  is a former teacher, a lawyer, a former prosecuting attorney of Summers County and a columnist for Huntington News Network. He lives in Hinton, WV. He turned 90 earlier this month; he was born in Charleston, WV in 1921.
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