Well here I am.
I am stuck in the middle.
The middle of Lent.
And I am waiting.
And I am tired of it.
And I am tired of thinking about it.
And I am tired of writing about it.
Is it Easter yet?
Last week I tried to force Easter to come early. And there for about a minute I thought I had succeeded.
It was Spring Break, which is practically an official holiday, which is close enough to Easter. Right?
So I broke Lent and ate dessert to celebrate.
I ate homemade spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting with wild abandon.
I recklessly dipped my fingers into the frosting bowl and licked my fingers clean.
I ate two Little Debbie snacks.
I may have had a piece or two of dark chocolate.
Then Monday came and as soon as my alarm went off at 5:30 am, I realized with frightening frankness, that Spring Break was over, and Easter was still not here.
It was still Lent, and I had barely reached the midway point, my weekend debauchery notwithstanding.
And I knew.
I knew then and there that I was sick of Lent.
And I also knew that there was no way out but through the middle.
So here I am.
In the middle.
Last Thursday I visited Miss Fern.
(I live in the South therefore every woman over the age of 65 is Miss First Name So and So regardless of status. Miss Fern is no exception to this rule. She is 83.)
Miss Fern, a widow, lives in a little house on top of a little mountain in the middle of Arkansas.
And she has the most beautiful, winding, lush, secret garden I have ever seen.
And half of what I saw wasn’t even in bloom yet.
Miss Fern knows each and every inch of that garden – and there is probably over a mile of it wound all over the top of that mountain.
Only recently has she begun to let her sixty-something year old son mow in-between her patches and circles, along her paths and trails. Only now is he old enough to be trusted with this task which up until recently Miss Fern handled herself.
Miss Fern leaves a pair of shears on her front steps so that anyone who stops by can help themselves to whatever it is they might fancy from her gardens. I had stopped by that day to get some spring branches, thinking Fern was at lunch with her girlfriends.
But she pulled up right behind me, hopped out of the car and took the shears from me, guiding me with her storytelling as we wove in and out across the vast yard, forward and backward down all the wandering paths she has created over the last thirty-five years.
I followed and she talked, snipped, and talked – sharing with me the names of each and every flower, Names like Flowering Quince. Forsythia. Winter Honeysuckle. Names that all sound like heroines from Southern Gothic novels.
As we walked, she handed me branch after branch, stem after stem, until my hands were so full that I could not hold another blade of grass.
Before I left she walked me over to see one “last little thing.”
The “little thing” turned out to be a 50ft tall oak tree that she grew herself, from an acorn.
Later at home, I separated several of the branches from the fragrant bouquet-fit-for-a-bride that currently sits in the middle of my dining room table.
I set the cuttings apart, because I want to see if I can grow something new from something found.
I place the cuttings in individual mason jars, filled with fresh clean water, letting them soak in anticipation of the rooting preparation to come.
I make fabric labels for the jars from fabric scraps, attaching them with masking tape on the back, to protect the future roots from too much harsh light.
I name the branches Joy, Hope, Grace, and Peace, and set them up high in the in the windowsill where the existing blooms can soak up the afternoon sun without being knocked around by my rowdy bunch.
And then I wait.
To see what blooms.
The fabric labels for these cutting jars hold two purposes – the first is to look cute and the second is to protect the new roots from harsh UV rays. Starting cuttings in clear jars is great because you can check the progress of the roots easily, but the baby roots still need some sunshade.
To make the labels:
Rip thin cotton fabric into one 3” x 10” strip per jar
Lay each strip flat, then using a stamp-ink pad and individual letter stamps, spell out one word for each jar.
(Remember, perfection is not the point. Authenticity and enjoyment are. It is okay if your ink bleeds or your letters are uneven.)
Wrap the jars (mason, jelly, olive, relish … any kind of well cleaned and rinsed glass jar will do) tightly with fabric labels, making sure to center the words at the front of the jar.
Secure the back of each label where the fabric overlaps using masking or Washi tape.
Fill jars halfway with water and a tsp of fertilizer, and add one prepared* cutting to each jar.
*(Since I am a novice gardener I am going to let you Google how to prepare a cutting to root. But do not fear – it is a fairly simple process. However, if you are a master gardener, please feel free to leave the rest of us tips in the comments!)
Jerusalem Jackson Greer is a writer, speaker, retreat leader, nest-fluffer, urban farm-gal, and author of A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting and Coming Together. Jerusalem lives with her husband and two sons in a 1940s cottage in Central Arkansas at the crossroads of beauty and mess with an ever-changing rotation of pets, including a hen house full of chickens and a Hungarian Sheep Dog mutt. As a family, they are attempting to live a slower version of modern life. She blogs about all of this and more at http://jerusalemgreer.com