I leaned against my bedroom window, soaking in the beauty of a brilliant winter sunrise and wondered when the Mid West had last enjoyed a full day of sunshine. Yesterday was overcast and gray, so was the day before that and the day before that. Seasonal Affective Disorder doesn’t bother me, but after weeks and weeks of minimal sunshine, seeing the jolly face of our giant earth-star rising up in the east certainly made me feel very happy. I contentedly sighed, “The days are getting longer again.”
Despite enjoying sunshine peeking into my house that morning, I knew it was very cold outside. The furnace was running almost constantly. Pulling the living room drapes open, I checked the thermometer outside the north window. It read, ‘Ten degrees below zero’. Nodding, I remembered that the weatherman had said that it would ‘warm up’ to five degrees by noon.
As the morning passed, I went again and again to the windows to admire the sunshine. I wanted to go outside, but even at five degrees above zero, it was too cold to really enjoy being in the backyard. The only hospitable place would be inside my unheated greenhouse. When the sun shines though the plastic, it gets warm. Eyeing the drifts between the house and my greenhouse, I calculated whether the struggle to get there was worth it. It was.
When the snow is deep and crisp in January, I begin to wax lyrical about all green growing things, even weeds. During this time of year my family has heard me say things like, “The purslane was so healthy and luscious looking last summer. It’s an eatable weed. Why don’t I ever throw some of its leaves into a sauté pan or salad and try it? Next summer I will!”
Pulling on a coat and boots, mittens and a muffler, I stepped out the back door. Climbing over a roll of snow pushed up by the plow, my foot immediately sank into the snow. Some of the ice crystals went over the top of the boot to chill my ankle and foot. Slipping and sliding, plunging one foot after the other into the snow, I made my way to the greenhouse door. Kicking clods of snow aside, I pulled the door open and stepped into…Shangri-La.
The stinging chill of winter was absent. A sense of peace and harmony filled the 30 by 70 foot enclosure. Not for the first time in my life, I marveled at the beautiful the smell of earth. Sniffing appreciatively, I looked around. Some of the parsley plants were still green and so was the kale! The squash left in the rows were rotting into the soil as I had hoped they would. The chrysanthemums and rose plants looked like they were taking undisturbed, happy naps. A few weeks of warm weather would quickly awaken their eager roots.
Excitement and enthusiasm for the coming growing season grew as I looked around taking in all the sights and smells. “Next summer…” I thought, “I’ll have the best garden, EVER!” Just like tomato or carrot seeds germinate, the gardener seed inside of me had just germinated. To keep the small, delicate thing alive and growing until the days got longer and the sun warmer, I needed to busy myself by looking at gardening books, ordering seeds and collaborating with another gardener.
My daughter came to visit me the following day. I said, “I went into the garden yesterday and got excited. A seed germinated.”
She looked surprised and said, “What in the world would be growing out there in this weather?”
Laughing, I said, “The seed that germinated was my gardener’s heart, the thing that makes me ready for my next garden. Each fall when I put the garden to bed, I’m happy to be done with it. Yesterday, the smell of the soil made me look forward to getting my hands dirty, working the soil and watching rows of big, healthy plants grow.”