Compiled by Alysa Cummings
Six brown paper bags, stuffed almost to bursting, sit at the bottom of my basement steps. Long empty of groceries, each bag is filled with another sweet necessity entirely. I inspect these bags every time I pass by. Even as I struggle with armloads of laundry on my way to the washing machine. I confess I just can't help myself.
I think about what's inside these bags and it always makes me smile.
These six brown bags have been hiding out in my dark unfinished basement since early November. I remember packing them the night of the first fall frost, using sections of the Sunday Inquirer as insulation from the basement dampness. I look at the bags in my basement day after day, week after week, through the cold winter months and think the same thought over and over again: spring is coming.
It's all about time, actually. Time passing. Looking forward in time. It's quite intentional on my part. Ritualistic, even. You see, I look at the six brown paper bags and mentally project myself to spring. Maybe it's just that time of year right now. All these months of cold, grayness and snow; oh yes, I'm more than a little winter weary. So this brown bag ritual serves me somehow. Gets me through. Keeps me upbeat and hopeful. Believing that spring will eventually come and that I will be here to celebrate the season again.
During the third week of March, these six bags will make the trip up the stairs, out of the dark, into the light, through the house and outside to the turned over and weeded perennial beds in the backyard. For the occasion, I plan to eagerly break out a fresh pair of gloves, slip into my most comfortable stained and well-worn gardening sneakers and (drum roll, please) break open the bags. By mid-March it's high time to check on the health of my collection of canna bulbs. Some will have rotted, unfortunately, but the majority will be pushing out pale green shoots; ready for planting in my garden. Early spring is the time to get these bulbs back in the ground so that, come July, there will be an amazing field of five foot plus high plants with wide tropical fronds and enough brilliant tomato red colored flowers to stop traffic.
I started this cycle of planting and digging up canna bulbs the summer after my cancer diagnosis. Now (happily) heading into year five of my cancer journey, this bulb-in-the-basement routine is a conscious part of my survivorship strategy. I recommend it highly to my fellow green thumbed survivors!
But if gardening's not your passion, here's an alternative that won't get your hands dirty: an assortment of poems written by cancer survivors and their caregivers that have been chosen with the spring season in mind. Until the buds start peeking out on the trees, until temperatures creep above 32 degrees, check out these poetic thoughts and warm up your heart and spirit a bit. And until spring arrives officially on March 21st, please keep in mind the wise, often quoted words of Hal Borland, "No winter lasts forever, no spring skips its turn. April is a promise that May is bound to keep."
Digital images created and poems selected by Alysa Cummings