Lately Mr. Henry has been thinking a lot about dirt.
Riverside Park has exploded with flowering plants that must have been stirring in the dirt for some time, unseen and unheard, because last week all at once they burst forth in a simultaneous crescendo, intoxicating each stroller, jogger, and rollerblader. Walking along the Hudson this morning Mr. Henry was nearly overcome by the cherry and crab apple blossoms. The air was thick and its perfume was rapturous.
Last week, as well, the wet earth began to exude a loamy aroma, a black bouquet captured in truffles, red wine, roquefort, and root vegetables.
There is nourishment in dirt, and not just nourishment for the body. Working a garden, aerating the soil, planting, trimming, mulching, bending over for hours, these are activities that soothe the soul. (Your back may remember them differently, however.)
As she does every year at springtime, Mrs. Henry once again announced her resolve to move back to California. When asked just why she feels this compulsion, she responds opaquely, “Wouldn’t you prefer to live in California?” as if such sentiment were self-evident to anyone with half a wit.
Televised images of redwood forests stir her vitals. At the merest mention of avocados, manzanita, or heirloom tomatoes she whirls dervish-ly around the kitchen issuing grim promises to cabinets and countertops that pretty soon she’s moving back west to start a garden.
Little Henry greets these seasonal pronouncements with an eye rolled heavenward and a deep sigh identical to the sigh Mrs. Henry has perfected through years of practice.
There is nothing much to eat in the market this month that is fresh, but no matter. Morning and evening, together with his noble hound Pepper, Mr. Henry bathes in the smell of cherry blossoms in the park. The vapors of spring substitute for the fruits of summer.
For dinner he buys a simple chop and opens a simple bottle of wine. He roasts baby Yukon gold potatoes and tosses french beans in parsley. The evening walk is so gentle and kind that he does not seek complications at the table.
Offbeat spring salads have begun to appear – mâche and baby arugula – welcome treats after winter’s steady diet of romaine. If Mrs. Henry had a garden right now, she might dig out greens that had “wintered over.”
Earthworms are wriggling. Hibernating amphibians are exhuming themselves. Migrating songbirds are arriving and building nests. Mrs. Henry is muttering and baking banana bread. Mr. Henry hides quietly in his study.