Today, I look outside and the brown ground is dusted with a thin layer of snow from last night’s light precipitation. The garden is bare and a little sad-looking. It’s only been four months since I put my garden to bed for the winter, but it feels like so much longer. Today, it’s hard to imagine this ground bursting with life, as I know it will be in just a few short weeks. (Weeks!)
Winter arrives in late December nowadays thanks to the effects of climate change here in the Midwest. By then, I welcome the cold and dry air with wide open arms, tired as I am from the oppressive heat and humidity that seems to drag on unbearably long from midsummer to midfall. I’m so ready to fire up the wood burning stove, dry and store my homegrown herbs, make pots and pots of root vegetable stew for the kids and me, chili for Kory. I’m aching to turn inward, read more, snuggle up under my electric blanket. I gaze longingly at my oversized sweaters and hoodies. I am thrilled to no longer be sweating all day.
The cold makes her slow, gradual arrival. By Christmastime I’m wondering where the snow is, my body remembering days from my childhood when white Christmases were a thing in this part of Kansas. The snow actually stuck around longer than a day; I know I’m remembering accurately because I hold vivid memories of building snow forts and snowmen with my sister when we were kids. There was more freezing, less thawing then.
By February, we’ve had a snowstorm or two. Finally. It looks and feels like the winters I remember. But by then, I’ve tired of the cold. There hasn’t been enough snowfall to keep the drab brown landscape interesting. Sometimes, if I’m lucky in my timing, I’ll go for a walk down our country road, snow crunching underfoot, and I’ll spot the evidence of a family of deer making their route across the road and through the barren fields. A secret, a whisper, only perceptible while the blanket of white lays across the land. Soon, their tracks will melt, and the story of their morning walk erased.
Now it’s March, and the days are clearly longer than they were just a month earlier. Kory and I have time to swing by a park with the kids after work, after picking them up from their Montessori school. Winslow clings to Kory, giving us the sign for ‘eat’, while Alder goes down the slide a few more times. We soak up the last of the day, holding Winslow off as long as we can with snacks and “squeezies”, then we pack up and head home for dinner, bath, and bedtime.
By the first weekend in March, I’ve laid down fresh compost in the garden – Alder ‘helped’ me move it, standing between the wheelbarrow and me, as I transported it from the pile to inside the garden fence, wheelbarrowful by wheelbarrowful. By the second weekend, dead-nettles and henbit have happily poked their square stems and leaves up through the layer of compost. My work pulling weeds shall never end; at least, not as long as I’m sowing directly into the ground rather than into raised beds.
Now, I'm longing for the warmth of the sun on my skin. I'm ready for linen dresses, my bare toes in the dirt. I look at my slow-to-sprout seedlings under my grow light and will them to grow bigger, faster. My soul needs days in the garden to return. I'm dreaming of a lush and unruly plot of plants, some started from seed by my own hands, some undoubtedly bought from the store. Try as I might, I'm sure this garden will have way too many plants for the size of the plot.
Hints of spring are there if I can be present enough to look and listen closely. I know that warmer days will come, the sun will shine longer, and the seeds that I buried will soon sprout, but today, it doesn’t seem possible. How, I wonder, can growth come from this dead-looking landscape? It’s so cold; the branches are so bare.
Though it’s hard to imagine today, I know soon, spring will burst forth in an explosion of color and birdsong, and I’ll be awestruck. And then, as I do each year, I’ll take it all for granted once again. I'll be so lucky to take it all for granted again.