A garden in winter has always occupied a soft spot in my heart. Probably because I feel like it is so often a reflection of my art. Such potential! Such stirrings beneath the surface! So much happening in secret places where no one can see.
Currently I sit with my artwork in a season of what can only be called winter rest. My writing, my photos, my weaving, my knitting, my stitching, my cooking….all of my offerings sit quietly biding their time until the next spring. It is difficult to string together the simplest sentence after months of interrupted sleep, let alone a weaving rich with allegorical meaning and significance, or a thoughtfully executed Paleo Thanksgiving dinner for my whole family to sit down to together (neither of which, by the way, has gotten much more than a tender glance from me this entire year).
Last week was unusually warm in our little nook of the Rocky Mountains. The kids were running around in short-sleeves with flip flops. They did not want chili for dinner. They went Christmas caroling without their coats. I had worked hard to get the Pumpkin down for a nap in his crib and debated what to do with my hour of two hands and my entire body to myself. I went to the garden.
I mowed the grass that had grown slowly long and matted by previous snow storms. The baby still slept. I swept the patio and drew out the dead leaves from the corners. I pulled the plants, long since bitten by the frost, out of the pots. He slept on.
I ventured down pea gravel paths farther from the house. I pulled the poppies that flopped dishearteningly over the borders. I swept off the Adirondack chairs and plumped up the cushions. I sculpted beds of seed heads into inviting displays of winter interest. And finally, I grabbed the broom and swept the dead leaves from the pea gravel. And still, the baby slept.
The Sweet Pea said, “This looks like something from Martha Stewart!” and the Peanut said, “We should have a garden party!”
I think about these things as I sit on newly-plumped cushions on a newly-swept patio waiting for the baby to wake up. Because it seems so ridiculous that anything in my yard could look like Martha Stewart, or that anyone should even consider a garden party in my garden–especially in December. I am a sour-faced grown-up, grown too practical with age. I am the elderly neighbor frowning and sighing as I rake up leaves that have fallen from the neighbor’s tree onto the wrong side of the property line. I have swept and sculpted and mowed and pulled, but to what end? Has it all been to simply tidy up and look presentable? Surely not.
Then the thought of the long winter of my art comes to mind, and I know what I’ve been doing. I’ve been nurturing, exploring, uncovering whatever it is that happens to gardens, to artwork, in winter. I know that a winter garden is not dead, but merely a garden at rest. I know there is still beauty, that it still speaks, and I know it is still worth caring for. But it took a couple of comments from my daughters to show me that it’s more than that. It’s also worth celebrating.
They found beauty and joy, celebration and delight where I found mediocrity. “It’ll do until something prettier comes along in the spring,” were my thoughts. But they saw the pages of Martha Stewart and parties. There’s something here that I need to learn. About joy, and happiness, and contentment with what is, rather than anticipating something “better” that’s coming.
The baby wakes up. My time for pondering in analytical awareness is over. I mentally dig a hole for these thoughts in my winter garden, cover them tenderly and leave them to their winter’s rest.