By Michael Leach
Spring starts with an act of Congress.
Daylight Savings Time revives winter weary gardeners with a bright hope more potent than any herbal tonic or miracle drug.
With an extra hour of daylight at supper time, winter’s mind game is up. Hope shines through the west windows long after the evening news. Instead of hunkering down to dinner in the dark, there’s time to garden after dessert.
Winter’s psychological start comes with the autumnal switch back to standard time. Something about coming home in near darkness, when the day before it was a fading sunset, that makes winter as real as stinging sleet.
An urge to hibernate descends with the early dusk and reminds us this is the time to gather near the stove, cover up and rest. For a few weeks, this approach makes for a guilt-free spree of reading and dozing on the sofa after supper. I rejoice in the reprieve from weeding, watering and working outdoors.
Hope stays alive inside with potted begonias, succulents and other subtropical favorites. But a contained garden, even in a sun porch with large, south-facing windows, fails to satisfy to the same degree as only a few moments spent working sun-warmed garden soil filled with “free-range” plants.
Those of us who are natural outsiders eventually chaff at this seasonal house arrest. Just as a sun-loving plant grows spindly and pale when placed too far from the windowsill, we gaze out the window and search for some sign of spring’s return.
Perhaps our need for grounding in the world beyond the glass makes gardening so special. Gardeners connect to the earth as we till and sow. We wear sun hats and silly grins in the spring air and sunlight.
We are nurtured even as we nurture. Plants don’t merely feed us and give us oxygen, they inspire joy when we see them greening, flowering and breathing life into the stale scene of straw lawns and skeletal trees.
This gift of evening light comes with a price, so typical of almost any congressional activity.
First, there’s poor man’s jet lag lasting several days. Because biological clocks don’t reset with the ease of a digital alarm, we live in discombobulated bodies that feel like they flew to a different time zone.
Spring is as mercurial as a cat, especially here in the Midwest. One minute all purring and nuzzling, the next hissing snowy wind.
We endure remembering these wintry mood swings are short-lived and the season eventually stretches itself with a big lazy yawn into the steady warmth of late May.
Desperate for a sunshine and fresh air fix, we tackle absurd chore lists on a single spring afternoon. Inevitably, bodies ache in places we never knew muscles and nerve endings existed.
This too will pass as muscles tone and strengthen with the rhythm of weeding, watering and working that return with daffodils, robins and Daylight Savings Time.