Handel’s Messiah was written for Easter, not Christmas. Which really makes perfect sense. Because when you think about it, an amazing blessed infant is born every few seconds all over the Earth. That famous “Hallelujah” chorus — the one that prompted the king of England to jump to his feet — was meant as an exaltation of something rather more unprecedented.
I was thinking about this while digging in the garden on Saturday. Where my backyard is concerned you should put “garden” in quotation marks, and where I am concerned, perhaps “digging” as well. As for the ground there, I would never use the word “soil” to describe it. Yet in my mind I see not a ravaged patch of former woodland but a verdant haven of blossom and scent and tranquility. And who knows? Maybe in my children’s lifetime such a place will rise from the hard-packed construction fill. Maybe the acorn I brought back from Togus last September, snagged from beneath a strikingly colored pin oak, will have extended brawny arms to shade the back deck. Maybe the new mojito mint — the genuine Cuban variety, according to Richters, wasted on Papa Hemingway — will have naturalized among the ‘Foxy’ strain of foxgloves that, a lady in Castine once assured me, will really sow themselves and come back year after year.
Christian or pagan, Muslim or Jew, Hindu or Buddhist or atheist or none of the above, I think we all share a yearning to believe in some kind of rebirth or resurrection. We all believe, or want badly to believe, that when the last page is turned, the final secret revealed, there will be another volume waiting on the coffee table. We need, for our sanity, to feel that life will go on, always go on.
Many things — small things mostly, tiny as the seeds in trays all over my livingroom — tell us this is so. Other things (I’m thinking mostly of the news, and mostly of Fox News) intimate darkly that it is not. I will confine myself to the small things, which I consider my area of competence.
Speaking for myself only, I hope there will always be a Reny’s. I hope that I can always go there on impulse on a fine spring morning — or, get real, a ghastly cold and gray spring afternoon, just at closing time — and plunk down 99 cents for a 100-foot spool of colorful nylon rope to mark out my herb-garden-cum-labyrinth. But that is not enough. No, in my mind, I see a wonderful reborn Reny’s where one can purchase, at any price, a spray bottle that really works. A humble plastic implement that will, as advertised, emit a mist or a stream of water in the general direction of my seed trays, and will continue to do so for — let’s go wild — weeks on end. I would love to hear from anyone who has been lucky enough to purchase such an object anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere in the past couple of years.
Since we’re dreaming now of miraculous resurrection, I’d like to imagine this amazing spray bottle having been manufactured in (let’s say) Monroe, Maine, by a nice family-owned enterprise devoted to no-nonsense gardening supplies. I dream of little companies like this popping up all over the state, producing needful goods, and a few whimsical goods as well, that will be sold in little Main Street shops that will rise from the ashes of fallen big-box retailers. I dream of our towns and villages returning miraculously to a state of reasonable self-sufficiency. I dream of a store that stays open year-round down the road at Lincolnville Beach.
It’s easier at Easter than at other times to believe in things, large as well as small. That’s what the eggs are about — boundless possibility. And the bunnies. For me, it’s seeds in the livingroom. Which I dare not leave uncovered for want of a spray bottle that really works. Has anyone successfully raised larkspur in a seed tray, I wonder? From what I can see, it would take a miracle.