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The Scent of Hyacinths

Guest Blogger Lindsey Roth:

Nothing is more ordinary than creating new life and nothing more profound. New creatures have arisen from old for the past 3.7 billion years. Through the eons, life worked its way toward consciousness until at last it could wonder at its own existence. I feel this wonder as I kneel in the garden with my children. They are my own most remarkable contribution toward furthering life on Earth. Now they also contribute by pushing seeds into the soil of our vegetable garden with their little fingers. Each spring, sprouts emerge in yellow-green glory; though by summer’s end, we are left with scant harvest to reap. Varying forms of life lay stronger claims to the plants, and we inevitably surrender. One year it was fungus, another year it was bugs, and this year it was a chubby groundhog that took up quarters under our shed. These creatures, too, are just trying to perpetuate their kind.

I suspect the sad state of our garden was motivation for our neighbor to offer my children some nature education. Last Christmas, the kids spilled into the house hauling her gift to them: three hyacinth bulbs, clay pots, and some soil. So, on a dark December evening, when the ground outside was stiff and icy, we unfolded a tarp on the warm laminate floor and planted hyacinths. Our neighbor provided step-by-step instructions. Keep them in a dark spot and water weekly. At the time her detailed instructions seemed like overkill. They were not. One February day, as I trudged down the block with our dogs through dirty, half-melted snow, my neighbor slowed her car. “How are the hyacinths?” she asked.

“Fine, last I checked,” I answered in truth. The last I checked was December. I rushed home and was relieved to find stubby shoots had somehow found their way through the parched soil. Life was persistent.

I brought our pots into the light, and the kids kept watch as the hyacinths grew. In late February, when grey clouds unpacked their suitcases as unwanted houseguests, the brilliant purple and blue blooms at last opened. They filled the room with a strong, sweet scent. It was the scent of spring and hope for life’s next season.

The only hyacinth without buds was the one I had planted. My children watered it and rearranged the pots to give mine prime position on the window ledge, but it never did flower. The children were sad for me, but I was not bothered; the scent of spring still filled our home. And as their little noses pressed into the soft petals of their flowers, I breathed hope. Life continues: sometimes because of us, sometimes in spite of us, and always (it is our greatest hope) beyond us.

Lindsey is a parent, spouse, veterinarian, writer, and educator in Dayton, Ohio.

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