In January, here, it is bitterly cold. The garden is frozen. The empty trees and the silence of the birds are a reminder of the season. Sometimes it rains, a rain like the bitter tears of Demeter grieving her lost daughter. Sometimes it snows. A lot. A little. Not enough or far too much, making the season sulky with spring feeling too far off to imagine.
As I grow despondent seeing the snow on the ground, feeling the freezing air, I plan my garden—a symbol of what I know but cannot measure, a symbol of that which inherently adds value to life.
With a reserved excitement, I choose what I will grow—the types, the varieties, the amount—and something begins to sing deep in my soul. Through the too short, sleepy days, I remember a far off memory of delicate growth, full blossoms and an eventual harvest. I watch and wait, carefully counting the days, counting down until the last frost day, straining against my impulses to plant too soon. I wait, and endeavor to not be tired by waiting.
Winter’s sensual beauty—the perfect fractals of snowflakes coating every surface, the familiarity of the fire, the silvery silence echoing on every white branch, on every same, snow-covered street—is real and inviting, often mesmerizing. But these would hold no beauty if not for spring.
Like new love, the truest beauty of winter is hope. We endure the desolation of winter for the anticipation of spring–the quiet trust that our part of the earth will be green again–the appreciated glow of the first crocus; the robin’s breast, an inviting red against the white snow or brown-gray ground; blooming flowers accompanying the new-warm breeze and spring-cold rain as they dance with each other in the polarity and tension of attraction. All made sweeter by their prolonged absence and eagerly awaited return.
Finally, it is time. The seeds go into the earth.
The still cold ground–maybe not yet receptive to the job of nurturing each tiny seed–receives them with no future promise, but a dream. A lucid dream breathed deeper by the early sighs of spring. The leaves flesh out the trees and somewhere nearby the tadpoles are swimming, unaware of their own magical transformations as the very earth morphs around us.
As the new flowers unfurl for the first time, so too do we, emerging from our homes to sit, walk and talk outside, once again reveling in the light breeze. And the final beauty of winter is formed.
The beauty of winter is hope and that beauty is not fully realized until the cracked dirt gives birth to tiny, dependent beings and to the excitement and love that take root with them. Faith leaps forward—the faith that each tiny seed, invisible in the feminine folds of earth, waiting…waiting…waiting until the right time, will break it’s shell and emerge each in it’s own time, playing it’s note in the glorious symphony of spring.
I wait, not so patiently—in fact anxiously—but with the joy of anticipation for the first signs of life from my planted seeds. My delight is irrepressible when I see the lettuces peak their green, flat leafed faces up from their brown pillows. As the spinach and greens grow, my excitement grows with them. With each new plant comes an almost inexpressible joy of fulfillment.
The lasting sunlight nourishes my plants. The rain makes them flourish. I can see the way the plants kiss the air after the rain.
When it rains a lot, I worry that my tiny seedlings will wash away destroyed by the very essence that gives them life. When a few days pass without rain, my fears turn to drought, dehydration and a scorching of the plants. My frivolous fears fade as I watch the plants grow.
I smile with love and laugh at my silly pride for the brave plants. I imagine how much deeper these feelings are for the farmer who cultivates acres of nourishment and fields of grasses that feed herds of hungry animals.
I imagine the vast wealth of fulfillment they must feel witnessing their green oceans of abundance as I bask in immense joy, peace and contentment just from my tiny corner of earth.
Winter’s beauty is not just the gleam from every icicle drip branch; it is the accompanying soft song that we feel without knowing where it comes from. For without spring, winter would never be so beautiful.
Wherever you are in your personal journey toward clean living and local food, thank you for joining me in mine. I look forward to sharing it with you.