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A winter garden reverie under the full moon

As I tried earnestly to become one with my couch, my pounding head and I were summoned out from under the warmth of the blanket and into the winter wonderland that lay outside our door. Originally shared on 11/26/23 on my Substack.

A hungover Sunday after a big moms-night-out calls for lots of couch time and moving as little as possible. That was my energy today. But when you have twin three-year-olds, the couch time is interrupted with requests for snacks, and, in today’s case, requests to go outside and play in the snow.

Last night, fat, wet snowflakes fell in the glow of streetlights outside the window of the sushi joint downtown. The restaurant was aglow with the ambiance only holiday lights can offer, and our table was particularly cozy thanks to the good-for-the-soul company and lively conversation.

That rom-com-esque outdoor scene didn’t make for great road conditions, though. Driving home from the hotel this morning, working hard to keep my tired eyes open and alert, I passed a dozen cars flipped around the wrong way on the side of the highway.

Our moms-night-out consisted of taking shots in a bar where we out-aged most everyone by five to ten years (but gave no shits), dancing like no one was watching (they were), popping into the splits on the dance floor (why), and ending the night with one mom’s face in the toilet (we won’t say whose) while the other three scarfed a pizza in the hotel room.

Between the four of us, we had nine children to get back to today.

Three is a particularly fun age, especially with two little personalities developing side-by-side. Turns out that my son, Alder, is a big snow guy; big outside guy in general. My daughter really loves being cozy inside, and is content to take little forays out into the cold and then promptly return to her warm spot in her armchair in front of the TV. Meanwhile, Alder will play outside until his gloves are soaked through and his pants are caked with snow.

Today, as I tried earnestly to become one with my couch, my pounding head and I were summoned out from under the warmth of the blanket and into the winter wonderland that lay outside our door. My partially-clothed toddler came to me with boots-in-hand, ready to go shovel snow (his idea of a grand time), and asked me to come with him. How could I say no?

Outside, bathed in the blinding whiteness of the freshly-fallen flakes, I followed Alder around, hands in my pockets and my hood up, really missing my spot on the couch.

But the crunch of my boots in the snow and my child’s sheer joy at just being outside in the “-noh” (snow) began to change my attitude and my energy. I noticed after just a few minutes in the cold that my headache had disappeared. I hadn’t expected this snowfall, and the night before I was cursing it as it came down, lest it get in the way of my much-anticipated night out with my friends. But this morning, no worry of plans being interrupted by winter weather, I took a deep, cleansing breath of crisp November air and was able to appreciate this blanket of white for all its beauty, and increasing rarity in Kansas.

As my child merrily shoveled, I walked around the yard, taking in this landscape that I’m lucky enough to occupy with my family. I fed my chickens; they tentatively stepped out of the coop, not keen on getting their little feetsies cold and wet in the four inches of snow that lay on the floor of their run.

I noticed my sleeping garden for the first time since I planted garlic bulbs in late October. Something about the way it looks with a fresh layer of snow is like looking at a blank slate, full of opportunity for new imaginings in the spring to come.

Alder finally had enough of the cold after falling down and getting his cotton gloves and pants wet. I picked up my big 42-pound baby and hauled him inside to warm up.

The the day carried on, as days do. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie played on the TV (Winslow’s current favorite show) while I got a series of micro-naps, punctuated by toddler snuggles, making snacks, and more jaunts outside.

The sun is setting around five o’clock this time of year, which is not always appreciated, but the hot pink sunsets do their best to make up for the early nights. My husband Kory and my son were outside just before sunset — Alder wanted one last snowy foray. (Wise, as the blanket of white will be patchy at best by the same time tomorrow.)

Winslow and I followed them out; I still needed to haul the chicken feed to the shed. And, true to form, Winslow got her five minutes of cold in then promptly returned to her spot in front of the TV. As I took trips back and forth, hauling each 40 pound bag one at a time, I peeked in the window to check on my girl. Content as she could be.

All of the feed was put away, so I started to walk back to the house. I paused as I passed by the sleeping garden. Harris sparrows flitted around, unbothered by my presence as long as I stood still. They let me watch them as they flew quick little routes from the garden fence to a raised bed; from the peach tree to a dead milkweed stalk.

Thoughts kept popping into my head: I need to get back inside. Is Winslow ok? The boys are probably wondering where I am. I gently shushed the voice asking all those questions, and returned to the present moment. The sun had already dipped below the horizon, leaving behind streaks of orange in a deep-pink sky. All there was to be heard were the rapid flap of tiny feathers, my dog Copper’s snorting as he frantically dug for some tiny creature in the prairie a few feet away, and the ‘chirp’ of the sparrows as they spoke to each other.

They weren’t conscious thoughts, but a deep sense of peace and stillness that I hadn’t felt in quite some time washed over me as I stood there facing my garden. My space. My little sanctuary.

Since starting a new job in August, I haven’t had the time or mental space to just simply be with my garden like I used to. My garden is a dear friend to me; maybe more like a mother — a mother who holds me gently and knowingly, accepting me completely in all my faults and failures. I had missed her so much, and I hadn’t even known it until that moment.

I stood there a while, taking in the beauty of a winter garden: Dead stalks left standing so that my sparrow friends might find a snack in the seed heads — a high-up place to land while they scan the ground for goodies. There’s peace in knowing that there is nothing to be done in the garden today. You cannot tend the soil or water plants when it’s 30 degrees outside and your beds are covered in four inches of snow. A sleeping garden offers the sweetest permission to just be as you are in this moment. For the garden is doing it! She’s not the ideal of garden beauty today. She’s not being productive, yet, just look at her! She’s a safe space for sparrows in the snow. She’s feeding their bellies and my soul. What a magical thing, a sleeping garden in winter.

Thank you, Harris sparrows, for bringing me back to my garden and myself for those few lovely moments of reverie under November’s full moon. And thank you to the cold for curing my hangover.


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