May 8th, 2019
This afternoon, under a blue spring sky, I find myself elbow deep in a cluster of rhubarb stems. I grasp each stem close to the dirt, and a steady but firm tug separates stem and leaf from the root. We repeat this over and over until Joy and I have bundled 60 colorful bunches. I love this rhubarb patch. It has existed in its current location for around 5 years, but for me the individual plants go back even further. When I was a kid, rhubarb in the spring was something to celebrate with a heaping scoop of freshly made rhubarb sauce slowly melting vanilla ice cream, combined with a couple dabs of maple syrup. This treat could get me to do any chore on the farm, sweep the barn, sure, milk the first ten cows, you bet. Sour and sweet always wins me over. The rhubarb patch we pick now is the same patch from my childhood. The same plants have been dug up and relocated, divided then divided again, until two rows extend 1000 feet into the distance. The abundance of the rhubarb plant is truly stunning. I think about the history in this small patch at least once each season, usually during the first or second harvest. I mostly think about one of my favorite people, grandmother Elva. She would frequently come pick our patch. My brother, sister and I would inevitability find ourselves joining her, whether out of obligation, curiosity, or pure fascination. It was a yearly ritual I personally enjoyed. I loved hearing what she had to say. It was endlessly fascinating. Born in 1914, she lived a life that modern humans can scarcely understand. She would teach us about rhubarb and all the different ways she would use it in her cooking over the next year. She would preserve it in jams, sauces, and juices. There was always some kind of rhubarb influenced spread on her table for special occasions. These days Joy and I are picking the patch, and I can tell you there is always something new to observe. This year it is the smell that catches my attention, the sweet fragrance of rhubarb. It isn’t something I have ever noticed before, but it’s in the air today, soft and sweet. Spring has sprung.