David Bowie has died. Another creator’s voice silenced when the world felt there was still so much to give. A reminder to all of us that life change change on a dime, that it’s never long enough to fully accomplish all we intend. And then there is Alan Rickman…I don’t even know where to begin with this one. He will forever be Colonel Brandon and Severus Snape to me, in that order. He was as dashing a figure as ever there was and such a brilliant actor. He will be missed. Always…
The end of 2015 slipped past quietly. Any time I spend New Year’s Eve at home on Long Island there is nothing to do. Everyone I know up there is praying in the New Year, faithfully on their knees as midnight comes and goes, ushering in the unknown future by acknowledging God first. As a kid this used to drive me crazy. The clock would get closer and closer to midnight and they’d all still be praying…what about the ball drop? What about screaming Happy New Year and singing Auld Ang Syne? What about bear hugs all around and champagne and cheers? Instead, fervent requests for the fate of our country, peace in the Middle East, the homeless in our community…on they prayed through the strike of an old grandfather clock in some distant corner of the house. As an adult, I hold dear their reverence.
It’s a notion that I would love to grab hold of, to say that my faith is strong enough to want to eschew things like frivolous celebration, but is celebration not a prayer of thankfulness itself? I no longer care about a ball dropping in Times Square, but every year when midnight rolls around, the slate is wiped clean, a new day dawns, and I start thinking about new adventures…not what I want to change and inevitably miserably fail at, but where to go, what new things to see this year that will broaden my understanding of beauty and this great, vast world that we live in? I worry that time will elapse and there will be places my heart longs to stand in that will go unseen. Trappings of career, money, house, and family all contribute to the inability to drop everything and go. I want to leave it all behind and hike the Appalachian Trail, to recover bits of myself that have been lost along the way, to look into new faces and experience God on a mountaintop, a
literal mountaintop. But I remain responsible, tied to a life carefully built, tenuously held together, and most of the time, happily walked in. Sigh…
Winter has settled in. Finally! I thought I was a woman tied to spring and could live happily in a world where the temperature is always 72 degrees, but this year I understand that I am a woman of the seasons and each one has its purpose. The frost and cold brings a refreshing comfort in knowing the plants will at last lose the old foliage they’ve been hanging onto, the dangerous bugs will finally die of exposure, and
the bulbs will bloom in spring. The garden that is a blank canvas of tired soil will once again be renewed and ready to receive the new year’s crop. The seeds have been ordered, the grow light is set up, and gardening books are being read. Winter’s bite means that the warmth of spring is on the way.
I have embarked on what I fear will be my total failure as a gardener. I planted seeds. I faithfully ordered the usual stock, with a few new ones thrown in, from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds, but this year instead of purchasing heirloom tomato plants, I’m attempting to grow my own. I tried this a few years ago, but it was
such a disastrous failure that I gave up entirely and have since direct-sown seeds into the ground and purchased tomato plants. But this year, I decided to have another go at it with the knowledge that my
self esteem may be damaged forever. The varieties you can buy in seed form are so much more interesting! It’s like shopping in the shoe department at Walmart versus going to Bergdorf‘s.
When you start from seed, the world opens and the Pradas and Valentinos of tomatoes are suddenly at your fingertips! I’m sticking with mostly heirloom cherry varieties this year since I’ve found that the large
tomato plants have a very small yield and the likelihood that a squirrel will taste my prize tomatoes before I do is infuriatingly high.
Every year in the garden has been a calendar period of sheer experimentation. What will the bugs destroy this year? Which organic spray mixture will actually kill them? Answer: just forget it, you have to kill yourself in order to kill the bugs. How many tomatoes will the squirrels steal and will I get enough sauce to freeze through the winter? Which cucumber variety produces the nicest, straightest fruits without tasting bitter if left on the vine? Why are carrots so stupid? Does the asparagus prefer being uncovered after frost or left to grow through its mulch cover? Why don’t apple trees bloom????? Which basil variety do we prefer? There are so many! How much thinning do beets actually need? Answer: a lot. How many tons of mulch, compost, humus, and manure will it take before my soil consistency is loamy like the community garden at the Warner Nature Center, of which my envy knows no bounds???
I haven’t figured it out yet, any of it. And this year promises to be just as experimental with just as many foot stomping failures that will inevitably make me want to throw garden rakes at our neighbor’s awful,
noisy ducks. The work involved in a garden of our size (19’x35′) is greater than I ever could have realized and the weeds are a particular challenge, a force of evil which cannot be thwarted. I already feel torn between the desire to hike every weekend and the backbreaking work it will take to maintain the garden through the prettiest outdoor seasons of the year. All of it goes hand in hand, really. A friend once said to me that he couldn’t figure out if gardeners were either psychotic or just a bunch of people who love the outdoors. Precisely!