As I write this the view beyond the window is temporarily sunlit, through a tiny break in a bank of clouds otherwise as gray, threatening and impenetrable as a fleet of battleships. This is late May in Chicago: glimpses of summer between stretches of cold, wet and windy.
This weekend we were granted a single perfect day, and on that day I helped to restore a friend's backyard. Once an oasis, it had fallen into ruin. We worked hard from Friday evening through Saturday evening: planting, dividing, tilling, grading, hauling, laying sod. It was heaven for me, the long-frustrated gardener with never more than a window box to fuss over.
I am happy to report that all those years of compulsively watching "The Victory Garden" and reading Gertrude Jekyll finally paid off. More than once, a question arose and from somewhere deep in my cranium emerged a surprisingly authoritative answer.
Time will tell, of course, whether things actually grow as we intended. But we are ambitious, and have put our faith in reinvigorated beds of hostas and daylilies; baskets and urns of assorted annuals; a large planting of herbs; and one experimental tomato.
In exchange for buckets of sweat and a few scrapes and bruises, I now have entrée to the garden whenever I like. It's close enough to home that my spinning wheel is now in residence. On Sunday, which was cooler but still pleasant, I sat on the porch and spun more of the Border Leicester for Susan's shawl. If the present pace persists, she can expect delivery in time for Fall 2015.
It's a commonplace that a good meal outdoors tastes better than the same meal indoors, and I think the same is true of needlework and spinning. When I first read Elizabeth Zimmermann's accounts (in Knitter's Almanac) of knitting in a canoe and by a campfire, I thought she must be cuckoo. Now, I get it. Provided you're not broiling in direct sun or being eaten alive by midges, fresh air can turn even plain passages of stockinette into moments of undiluted euphoria.
Our weather turned murky after that, and it's back to working indoors for the next few days, but I've had a taste of what's coming. And winter can't last forever, not even in Chicago.