Well-intended / Krista Richards Mann
Published 1:03 am, Friday, February 12, 2010
I'm in a cabin in the Berkshires, writing. There's a storm and tiny flecks of snow blow horizontally across nothing but white.
In preparation for my seclusion, I bought some tea and bread, some apples and a Floridian cantaloupe, as well as a few of those embarrassing fake fireplace logs designed for people who aren't good with fire. It's so quiet; I can hear the heater working.
The bread is good. The apples aren't. There are no local vegetables in February. I miss the tomatoes I canned and greedily consumed last summer. I miss cutting field greens from a pot on the deck. I miss my children and cell phone service and ripe peaches and bumblebees.
As is often the case when I am supposed to be doing something else, my mind wanders. The snow on the river beside the house is beautiful.
But, I'm ready to step into the water again with bare feet. I want the moss and the mosquitoes to thrive. I want farm stands to open, vending vegetables I neglected to plant. I want to stain my fingers and T-shirt with fresh berries.
Industrious neighbors have strung surgical tubing between maples in anticipation of spring's thaw and a rush of sap. I sulk, thinking about the piles of edits on a manuscript that has come to feel dull as winter to me. The wind pushes the door, the mice that will scurry overhead at night sleep.
It's not too early to dream of spring. There are many things in life we can't predict. But, every year, spring follows winter just as morning does night. I may not boil sap to syrup, but I can imagine the garden I will plant when the ground thaws and the weeds thrive.
Ambitious, I look at Web sites for seeds and make lists of those which are most appealing. I sketch out plans on paper. In my fantasy, my plants are pest-free and drooping with vegetables. I share the abundance with nonchalance, "I hope you can use some of these heirloom tomatoes. I have such a glut."
The reality isn't always so prosperous. But, it's still a fantasy.
My mother grew things, as did my grandmother. I learned from them to love nature. But, being independent, I always wanted my own garden.
My high school boyfriend and I claimed a southern slope in my parent's backyard, which we terraced and watered into submission. I don't recall the extent of his enthusiasm for this project. High school boyfriends don't usually have their thoughts on agriculture. But, he was accommodating and it was ours. We grew strawberries and cucumbers, cosmos and weeds.
In college, I had a plot in a community garden. There was a California live oak near the entrance, and retired men and women sat in lawn chairs and talked root rot and politics. Gardening is the type of endeavor in which one benefits from the advice of the more experienced. These gardeners were neither interfering nor gloating. They answered questions with grace and shared the bounty of their experience and harvest with those of us who planted too many seeds and pulled too few weeds.
I have a plot in the community garden now. I've left stakes tumbled from last summer and know I should tidy them up. I had more flowers than vegetables last summer. The soil was too wet for carrots, but the tomatoes survived the blight and my spinach was lovely. There was only one squash, and my pumpkins were nibbled. There is nothing like eating food you've grown. To me, nothing connects me more to the little patch of earth I inhabit than cultivating it, caring for the soil and knowing that year after year, spring will follow winter and seeds will want to grow.
Catalogues and Web sites spawn horticultural fantasies. I urge you to join me in the endeavor of planning and then planting something.
Imagine the summer salads and fresh pesto for an afternoon, this winter. And then, let's enjoy the rest of this snow.
Some favorite sites: