April 19, 2016 by Jean
During most of a lifetime spent in school (either as a student or as a teacher), spring never felt to me like a time of new beginnings. It was fall, the beginning of a new school year, that held that excitement. Spring arrived during the second half of the spring term, a time of looming deadlines and rising workloads for both students and teachers; it was a time of keeping my nose to the grindstone and pushing through to get to summer. Now that I am retired and my life is no longer ruled by the rhythms of the academic calendar, however, spring is feeling like a time of new beginnings.
Spring arrived in my part of Maine this past week. The snow is gone and there is little likelihood that we will get more. Daytime highs are now in the 50s and 60s with overnight lows in the 20s or 30s. Maple trees are flowering, and new life is springing up in my garden. These changes have brought me a giddy/happy sense of new beginnings. Over the weekend, I got out to begin spring clean-up in my garden. It’s always fun to remove old plant debris and rake up the leaves that fall from the oak trees and blow out of the woods during winter storms to reveal the new green shoots underneath. I’ve declared the new beginning of the outdoor season by removing the protective tarp from the wooden bench in the back garden. I’ve begun my garden-season ritual of pouring out my first mug of tea each morning and then taking it outside with me as I walk around the garden to see what’s happening in each flower bed. On Sunday, I swept the screened porch, set up the round table and four chairs that furnish the porch in summer, and ate lunch there for the first time this year.
I felt the excitement of new beginnings most strongly on Friday. I got up early that morning and made the 90-minute drive out to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in mid-coast Maine. I got there just as the garden was opening for the first day of its new season and had time to walk around and enjoy the display of spring flowers.
My main purpose for being there, however, was another new beginning – the first class of my Native Plants and Ecological Horticulture certificate program. This was an orientation session for this year’s new students and had all the excited anticipation of the first day of school. There were about eighteen of us, and it was fun to meet the other students and to learn what had brought them to the program. I felt a particular connection with the woman sitting next to me, and before we left, we compared notes on which courses we will both be in this year. There are 14 required courses for the certificate, 11 core courses and 3 electives. While there are some recommendations for which core courses students should take earlier rather than later, the program is very flexible; a highly motivated student could finish in less than two years, while a student taking the minimum required 2 courses per year would finish in seven years. Taking 3-4 courses per year seems like a very reasonable pace to me and means that I can look forward to graduating in four years. I am eagerly anticipating the four courses I am registered for this year: basic botany and gardening for wildlife in June, an introduction to Maine’s native flora in August, and invasive plants in September.
This season of new beginnings has me feeling that my life is very full – not full in a stressed-out, overcommitted way, but full in a rich, happiness-inducing way.