slight

passion comes in tiny bursts in december. in the dark and cold, i can only muster excitement in small, discrete units.

fourteen years ago, we moved into our house in october while the ground was thinking about freezing. any garden stuffs we moved from the old house to the new house were chucked into the ground in a hurry with a dollop of hope. over the next couple of years, friends and family contributed to the stock of perennials from their own gardens. and then came goats, who happily ate up all the shrubs, and chickens, who scratched and dug fleshy plants into dying pulp. everything that survived was tough and began to take over. astilbe disappeared. echinacea bunches dwindled and died. rugosas flourished. daylilies laughed at mere chicken toes. hostas hung on with tattered, ugly foliage. bishop’s weed and crab grass and creeping charlie moved in. it seemed hopeless to try to save the beds, so we let them be. for almost a decade.

last spring, i decided that the beds were a disaster, the chickens were gone, and it was time to swoop in and rehabilitate. if it was daylight, or nearly, i was grubbing out crab grass, pulling rocks, breaking up iris, putting down mulch, edging beds, putting in new plants. if it was raining, i was out pinching bishop’s weed. if it was hot, i was in the shade garden. i worked around the furry bodies of needy cats, kept my mind amused with audiobooks (hours and hours and hours of audiobooks), and made a serious dent in the gardens. (by “serious dent”, i admit that i’ve probably only tackled about a fifth of the work that needs to be done, but i have 10 acres. give me time.)

i put in half a vegetable garden, too, so there was weeding, thinning, hoeing, and harvesting.

i did fencing and lawn mowing and horse keeping and goat tethering.

by the end of summer, i was tired, but content. before september’s first hard frost, i made the final push to hack everything down that i’d been nurturing all summer, which is both satisfying and gruesome. everything that needed some extra mulch got it and everything else was put to bed with little fanfare.

there are deadlines that have to be met: perennials cut back, tomato cages taken down, fencing unstrung and restrung. these seasonal chores all have their times and their rhythms, but what happens when they’re done? when the ground is frozen and there’s no more to do?

then there’s darkness. dark mornings. dark afternoons. cold winds.

nothing to tend. nothing to grow.

i can knit for an hour or clean house for a day, but there is little love in it, little passion. it is what needs to be done, either to maintain a semblance of tidiness or sanity. i can spend extra time on chores, give the ponies a good stiff brush, but the fingers and nose begin to freeze, the eyes to water. and always darkness, even with a thin beam of white light from my headlamp.

i get a tiny thrill from a good cable round on a warm hat. a small charge from a disastrous closet made useful again. a nearly warm sigh of contentment from a clean, fluffy horse. and that’s all.

4 thoughts on “slight

  1. The dark and cold are hard to love.
    Some people enjoy this time of year. They skate and cross country ski, they bake and celebrate a warm fire. I hole up and wait for spring. It feels like half my life has been spent waiting out darkness and winter.
    Maybe I should learn to bake.

    1. the bonus of winter baking is that it also warms up the kitchen a bit? i have to spend enough time outside and have no intention of strapping things to my feet to spend some more.

  2. I so understand what you are saying. I’m not the Gardner like you. But during the warmer Vermont days there is such statisfaction in being outdoors, working the land. Be it little or small. Once the days become shorter and colder. You find it hard waiting for the return of spring. I’ve taken up painting to help me get through it. Something statsifing about painting what’s on my mind and listening to a book or a program play in the background gives me a sense of pleasure. Doesn’t have to be good and they don’t grace my walls. But it’s a good way to spend the time waiting for the Earth to unfreeze and get warm again!

    1. good for you! i find it very challenging to be creative when i’m in the winter funk. need to do better. the pure logistics of winter are hard enough without piling despair on, too.

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