Rumours of Spring Authenticated
Every year about this time Ann and I take a drive beyond the ever-spreading outskirts of the city. Our destination is always the same,
J&C Gardens, a pacific greenhouse operation situated off Airport Road in the
rapidly disappearing farmland southeast of Edmonton
and the newly incorporated city of . Beaumont
Mill Woods, now a long established capital suburb, almost encroaches on the corporate limits of Beaumont, once a remote French-Canadian farming community. The demarcation is the Anthony Henday ring road.
population has more than doubled since 2006. It is now home to nearly 20,000
commuters. Its main street is faux quaint, anchored by a French restaurant that
gourmands swear is worth the drive. Beaumont
Saint Vital (Vitalis in Latin and men’s grooming) is not so obvious. St. Vital is a
Manitoba, city ward, originally a vibrant and
now historic enclave of French-Canadian and Metis settlers adjacent to .
It’s easy to infer how the name leapt further west over Fort Garry Prince
Rupert’s Land to .
However, my searching of both the Catholic Encyclopedia and Wikipedia has
dredged up eight Saint Vitals, five of whom were Italians and three of whom
were martyred. Faith is a complex construct; said Saints Vitals are not be
confused with Saint Vitus, he’s a wholly different dance. Beaumont
The layout of
resembles a human hand, palm up. The main structure is the base which includes
a splayed, possibly green, hitch-hiker thumb. The too many fingers, pale tents
shaped like Nissen huts, extend from the perpendicular. We turn up every spring
always hopeful that the dirt and gravel parking lot won’t be a shoe-sucking
quagmire. Ann brings a list of her summer planting plans which also includes
notations of past failures, flora to avoid. This is big, important and
ultimately fleeting stuff, a lot like life. J&C Gardens
I man the three-tiered blue steel cart. Ann examines the plants as if they were Lawren Harris paintings in the National Gallery; a book in a bookshop too, you know, you never purchase the one atop the stack, you have to dig. I’m the runner even if the process involves a pleasant and leisurely couple of hours. I move the potato vines and sunpatiens from tent to cart and everything must be just so because there’s more to come and the gartenmeister fuschia and the alyssum will need their spaces. Ann’s walking up and down the floral rows three inches off the sagging concrete. Man, she’s shimmying on an ether of scent and colour, even the neon geraniums are impressed. All you Saint Vitals, here’s a genuine sense of wonder, sense of joy.
And, believe it, there’s another attraction at J&C for me that just enhances a happy errand. There is a cat who hangs about the main greenhouse. Its fur is charcoal accented with some faint caramel markings resembling incomplete tiger stripes. I deserted Ann and our cart to go searching for my indifferent harbinger; we’ve been tight for years. I found the little soul curled up sound asleep in a picked-over black plastic tray of sweet peas.