Green River, Williamstown, Mass.; photo by Sheila Velazquez.
Green River, Williamstown, Mass.; photo by Sheila Velazquez.

Spring tonic

Within minutes of my house, the Green River meanders through a small park along the edge of a cemetery. In a twinkling I can be there, park by the rows of silent neighbors, and carefully make my way through wild edibles, ferns, and other flora wet with mist to sit on the bank and watch the foam rush by. Birds and insects are my only distraction. 

Here I feel my mood lift, pulse rate drop, and general overall feeling enhanced. I will not stay long. I don’t need to. More important is that I do this often. Breathe deeply, think deeply. 

The weather here in the Berkshires has been a mood-breaker, with only occasional pauses from the day-after-day wet cold. I’ve gone fishing just twice, and caught just one. He met the grill on the only sunny day that week. Yes, this is the sort of weather that sends them to the hook, but these days, I favor warmer, sunnier angling. 

Sitting inside looking out can be depressing, but being out in the evolving season is exhilarating. Buds are swelling, grass is vibrantly green, birds whistle at me from the tops of trees. The newly arrived hummingbirds are becoming braver at the feeder. Trees are flowering, and the river is swollen with life. 

Crab apple tree in blossom; photo by Sheila Velazquez
Crab apple tree in blossom; photo by Sheila Velazquez

It’s a frustrating time for the gardener. Greens are up, but need more warmth to grow to even the size of a garnish. The squirrels have figured out how to circumvent my chicken wire barrier. They won’t be discouraged until the plants are larger. Roots are forming below the surface to give them the base for that sudden spurt. Inside, vegetables and herbs are nurtured under lights. The tomatoes are lanky teenagers reaching for the sun and freedom. I dare not put them outside during the day for hardening for another week or so, after which they will go into their black fabric grow bags when temperatures rise a bit. 

Tomato starts under lights; photo by Sheila Velazquez
Tomato starts under lights; photo by Sheila Velazquez

I discovered these amazing handled bags on Amazon a couple of years ago, and gardening hasn’t been the same since. Easily moved about and stacked up over winter, they are inexpensive and perfect for someone like me who has planted acres over the years and must now cut back but cannot cut out. They come in many shapes and sizes. Buy a bale of container mix and some fertilizer, fill the bags, water, and you are ready to go. Plant seeds or starts to transfer to their new homes. Instant garden, as small or as large as you care to make it. I cannot endorse this method enough. Growing things is good for the body, and even better for the soul. If doing it an easier way makes it possible, I’m all for it.

I am awaiting the arrival of a dozen African Violet leaves, registered varieties I plan to raise. I have been emailing back and forth with the growers in Nashville for several weeks, trying to decide on two days to ship when the temperature will not threaten them. We have finally given up, and they will go out today. Fingers crossed. Murphy’s Law dictates that after they arrive, temps will soar and all the springtime chores that have been put off will be tackled with urgency. Let spring begin!

Sheila Velazquez

Sheila Velazquez is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in more than 100 print newspapers and magazines, including Grit, New Woman, the Hartford Courant, the New Haven Register, the San Antonio Express-News and Bay Area Parent. Her awards include two from the Society of Professional Journalists for a syndicated column. Sheila has contributed to online websites, including and She served as contributing editor of Organic Producer magazine and wrote biographical material for reference collections that include “Contemporary Authors,” the “Encyclopedia of International Biography” and “Notable Sports Figures.” Feel free to send her an e-mail.

ELEMENTAL as viewed from the rear of the installation; photo by James Kennedy.
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