The Ceremony of Innocence

There is a famous poem by the Irish poet Yeats that contains the line, “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.” Lately, watching the news, this line pops into mind frequently, I’m afraid. This time of the garden year, though, there are many such ceremonies, but happily, they proceed unimpeded. Starting seeds is such a ceremony for the gardener. No matter how long you have gardened, seeing the first seedling emerge from the soil is a happy moment. Watching a robin hopping down a sunlit brick path this morning was another such moment for me. So while we humans insist upon being restless and dissatisfied, seedlings and robins go about the normal business of their lives, and I really do thank God for it.

Some weeks ago I had planted some variegated lunaria seeds. I am aware as I say this that if you are not a gardener, the term “variegated lunaria,” has caused your eyelids to grow heavy, and your head to nod, but if you are a gardener, bear with me. In one of the most wonderful garden ceremonies of the spring, this morning I transplanted the seedlings each into their own little container to “grow on.” In preparation for this moment, Jim and I had eaten lots of  Blue Bunny ice cream in little plastic containers to use as pots. Seriously, I no longer use small clay pots for this purpose, no matter how picturesque, as they dry out too quickly. Even peat pots can be a bit treacherous. In the humid atmosphere of a professional greenhouse, they stay moist, but in a home environment, they can dry out.

This morning I spread out some newspaper on the dining room table, moistened some potting soil in a big stainless steel bowl, and set to work. I upended the seedlings from their pot, and was happy to see the roots growing to the bottom of the container–these were healthy little plants.

Then I pulled the seedlings apart. This might seem brutal, but they will recover quickly. When I worked at a local nursery, I can remember being in the potting shed when nursery workers upended entire trays of seedlings onto the work table. They deftly pulled seedlings from the pile of dirt, and then planted them into pots.

One thing I have learned along the way is to never hold a seedling by its stem, which can be easily crushed. Ideally, let the seedling rest on its leaves between your fingers. Sorry the picture is a bit blurry, but I was taking it one-handed.

Once all the seedlings are potted up, I watered each pot using the spray attachment on my sink. Make sure the water is warmish/tepid, and spray gently. I nestled the pots in a tray, and set them back outside on the patio. I will check on them occasionally to make sure they haven’t dried out or that animals haven’t dug in the pots, but in a month or so (depends on how warm it is in the coming weeks) they will be ready to go into the garden–another happy ceremony.

2 thoughts on “The Ceremony of Innocence

  1. Oh, I so love these ceremonies. I relate to the joy of watching a seed sprout and the birds being about their business. So very beautiful! And sometimes, there is some “ceremony of innocence being drowned” in nature. Watch a squirrel or deer nibbling a prize tree seedling because it is hungry; more disturbing, watch a hawk kill a mourning dove because IT is hungry. Nature has a vital, exquisitely beautiful, but sometimes violent way that is so raw and real. How much authenticity do we encounter each day? Not much, really. Hooray for nature!

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