It’s been a chilly April so far in Chicago, temps considerably below normal even for this lakeside metropolis where “warm” at this time of year often means “anything above 40 degrees as long as it’s sunny out.” The overnight temps have been even worse, and as a backyard gardener I am not happy. I don’t remember strings of overnight lows in the 20s this late, a couple even in the teens (okay, that was March, but still–end of March, which is supposed to mean something!). I worry over my perennials: hyacinths, crocuses (croci?), day lilies, the chives that come back in greater profusion every year.
So anyway, it finally got sunny enough to be bearable in my backyard, and I went to take a look at the patch of dirt my herbs and vegetables call home. Nothing much there yet–I don’t dare risk planting anything this early–but the chives were poking their heads up. Clumps of tiny green spikes, sticking up through the chilled soil and a layer of browned grass clippings from the last time my husband mowed the lawn way back in October. More clumps than last year: at least six. Which is three more than there used to be. Despite the lingering Arctic freeze, despite overnight lows that I feared had frozen the ground late enough in this new year to do damage, my chives had doubled themselves. And there they were, announcing themselves to the world–small patches of in-your-face greenery, defying winter and the troubling specter of permanent climate change in the Windy City.
I stood there looking at them, all bundled up in my “lighter” winter coat (bright turquoise, my own in-your-face answer to winter’s drab), and I thought about resilience. Nothing could conquer those chives–not winter, not the bitter nights of an early spring hardly worth the name. They’re up in spite of it, and they’re thriving. As if the adverse weather only made them more determined to show the rest of Nature they’re not to be messed with.
We’ve been through a lot lately in our family; two beloved parents lost in the space of 13 months, the stresses of raising a teenager, anxieties over college money, the general state of the country and the world. But we’re still here, and our roots are still warm. The freeze hasn’t reached them, hasn’t harmed them yet. We can still poke our heads above ground and see the sun.
So I’m going to take a lesson from my chives, and cultivate resilience. Green and growing, that’s what I’ll be. Looking for spring, reaching for warmth, confident that sooner or later it will come.