Reflections on gardening, hope and the promise of our Pontiac spring

Birdsong fills the air. Green grass reflects blue sky. Pussy-willow pollen gleams golden in the sunlight. Lilac, apple and daffodil buds “swell fit to bursting.”

No black flies.

This is the glory of early spring in the Pontiac.

Last weekend was a gem: two days of sunshine, blue sky and fresh air. A time to do the laundry and to revel in seeing it snap and dance in the gusts of wind.

So much for the meteorologist’s prediction of rain.

Instead of precipitation we received instead the drying breezes of spring. It was a perfect opportunity to plunge into the earth and “get gardening.”

And that’s what we did. Renovating grass-infested perennial beds where eleven-year old iris, peonies and arabis were losing their battle with cooch-grass.

As Eric and I worked away at the flowerbed in front of the verandah, we realized that almost eleven years ago to the day, his parents, Ted Fort and other friends were helping us move into our Steele Line home.

What a time! We had such hopes then. I was pregnant, we had finally discovered our dream home in the countryside... and life seemed rich and full of incredible promise.

Life evolves in such mysterious, unpredictable ways, doesn’t it?

Take the flower bed, for example. This was the very first of the many flower beds we created here. We dug this first one hastily, with Eric’s parents help, in early May of ’89 because we needed a spot to plant the many perennial flowers we brought from our Ottawa home.

The woman who purchased our Ottawa home -- ironically a poet and painter who lived in Ladysmith -- kindly permitted us to dig up and move some of our flowers. So it was that we brought to our new Quyon home a selection of plants that resonated with personal history.

There was arabis and forsythia from my mother’s Toronto garden. Stately bearded iris from my mother-in-law’s farm in Kinburn, that in turn had come from their Kanata home where Eric and I were married.

And there were poppies and peonies from Quyon: yes, Quyon. My sister-in-law was one of the village doctors. She too had a wonderful garden and, before she moved to the Okanagan, she gave me some plants from her Hammond Line home.

Full circle. Gardening is hope for the future -- well seasoned with memories of people and places.

It’s a passion with me and with many of my earth-loving, caring friends who enjoy splitting a crown of peonies so that the gift of memory continues to flourish. For gardening gives us time to pause, reflect and share: surely some of life’s greatest pastimes.

As well, gardening permits us an opportunity to dig our fingers into the earth, to nurture and appreciate the miracle of life.

These thoughts and more swirled about me as I cleaned the front perennial bed. Eric worked beside me, stabilizing the retaining wall, doing some of the heavier digging while I separated iris root from grass and invading purple violet corms.

As we worked, bluebirds sang from the overhead wires. They’ve taken up residence in a birdhouse perched on our easternmost fence. We can hardly wait till their brood hatch, and once again we’ll see the spotted juveniles learn how to swoop down from the fence to pick an insect from the grass, then dart back to their perches.

A shadow swept past me and, as I glanced up into the blue sky, I saw a pair of turkey vultures whirling above me. Warbling sounds in the meadows announced the return of meadowlarks, while a flash of gold with it’s patch of white told me the flickers are back. Really, this is spring, I thought!

Twilight found us still working. Dwindling light brought other songs, other sounds of nature. We heard a low-pitched “tzeet, tzeet” from the back woods. The woodcock, we murmured to one another, recognizing its nasal-sounding call.

It was time to quit for the day. We poured ourselves a glass of wine, sat at the firepit and burned a log, in celebration of our eleven-year anniversary here on the Steele Line.

Not far off, in the direction of the darkening woods, comes a familiar song. “Whip-poor-will! Whip-poor-will!” comes the call of the latest returning, welcome migrant.

As we watch orange embers collapse into the firepit, the glow of the fire subsides and the night sky comes into its own remarkable glory.

It’s time to go in for the evening. Tomorrow’s awakening brings the dawn of a new year for us, here on the Steele Line. Our twelfth year here as Pontiac residents.

Life is what you make of it, and it can offer many a nasty-seeming, disappointing twist and turn that you just have to pass on by, in time. Just as with you, not everything we wished for has come true. Our greatest sadness is that we never were able to have children. And in the passing years we’ve witnessed the death of some friends and family members. We mourn their loss; we remember them well.

But we rejoice in what we have. Life offers joy and the hope of a promising, better future, if that’s what we strive to achieve.

Thank heavens that here, in the Pontiac, we can all enjoy fresh air, birdsong and the reassuring rhythm of life brought about by our renewing four seasons.


Katharine Fletcher enjoys her Steele Line farm where she writes and enjoys nature. Contact her at