Saturday, December 31, 2011
Two seed catalogues arrived yesterday. They were mailbox-cold, and flipping their pages swept winter over the end of my nose.
With a brown Sharpie, I drew neat little boxes around portraits of snow peas and Asian eggplant. I knew full-well I wouldn’t pay $3.95 plus shipping, but I marked them nonetheless. I will also mark the Silver-Laced Wyandotte chicks when McMurray arrives, and I will clip out pictures of Nubian goats, and I will sigh over Wellies, and I will bother over bee hives, and I will sketch out plans for a vineyard - for this is how I always survive the dark months.
Today, at twelve past four, the sun unrolled herself in wide, lazy planks across the grass. She has made the same path a thousand, thousand times. In fact, she has grown so used to it all that she doesn’t even shiver pressing pretty, naked toes into the frost. But I am older than she, so I must wear shoes and a coat.
Stepping out to wander in December is like jumping into a pool all at once. I forget how the ground is satisfying and unpredictable. I forget the sounds of birds, and wind, and my own footsteps. I forget the sleepy intoxication of made things. Two paces past the door it envelops me, full and fast. It is a hymn. All of it.
Nature cleanses. It washes the fears from my heart.
For a hour or so, I rummage about the garden. It is a graveyard now, apart from the Swiss chard, the onions, and a kohlrabi. Cheeky and green, they wink at the joke and grin.
“Next year I will grow winter vegetables,” I tell myself for the thirty-second time. And I will.
All else that remains is skeletal and gone to seed. I bend the great, standing okra bones to the earth and crush them down flat. Pull out five dried sunflower stalks. Tear a tomato vine out of a fence. All of last year’s doing must be undone.
How easy it is to disengage death from cold earth while roots unyield within me. So I turn to the sun, letting it blisten across my sight. I see and remember I am also seen.
The basil. How I miss the basil! It is all sticks and paper now. A zip up the stem releases a handful of dried bits into my hand. I rough them between my palms, watching brown dust pull away from tiny black seed.
Such infant packages of life! Eternity bound in a serif. Every year it is the same, and every year I am awed anew. Bowing my neck, I fold them into a tissue, for they will be sown in early April.
Lowering breath to hands, July fills my lungs, spicy and darling. I remember this. I remember it all. It skips hope across my waters.
Tomatoes. Why didn’t I bring in these tomatoes? Such carelessness seems a mortal sin at the end of December. Six, sad, sagging bags of red hang low, yielding to gravity, forgotten like ornaments after Christmas.
Stepping over withered peppers, I notice the tomatillos. They were new this year, so I’ve never watched them full circle before.
Carefully, I kneel and bless the miracle of what waits. A hundred perfect lace balls. All flesh is gone. There remains only a gilded heart bearing twelve seeds.
I want you to see it, so I try to balance one on a post and catch a photograph. Yet it is weightless, and the slightest breeze makes it dance. The old is past. The new is come. Behold, all that is restless within me.