Tomorrow, Feb. 2, used to be just Groundhog Day to me. Once I keyed into the seasonal festival days celebrated in ancient times, I knew Feb. 2 as Imbolc—a day to take a walk and look for the first signs of spring.
But now it’s forever associated with my dad, who left this world on Feb. 2, 2012. On that day the snowdrops bloomed and the sandhill cranes flew low. I like to think that his spirit took stock of those harbingers of spring—and that they released him to fly away.
It broke Dad’s heart to leave us, and he hated to leave all his wonderful volunteer work behind. Since his retirement he’d launched all kinds of projects. Possibly the hardest thing to give up was his connection with schoolchildren.
It all started when he began tending the grounds of Cold Spring School, the environmental education magnet, just because it looked like somebody ought to.
Because he took an interest, he eventually found himself in stewardship of the school’s greenhouse. This was a dream come true for him. (I remember many times in my childhood, he would talk about his dream of putting up a greenhouse.) His passion made it easy to engage the classes who came in for units on seeds, soil, and other such things.
After he got sick, when confronted with kudos for his volunteering, Dad liked to say, “I was just having fun.”
Just looking at these photos again, I’m swamped with sadness.
No one can fill the void he left. But maybe by having our own brand of fun, we can each take up a tiny spot of it. As the days get imperceptibly longer, what can we bring to the earth, to each other?
Photos courtesy of Friends of Cold Spring School.