It is finally here, the day I start dreading on June 21st, and then start looking forward to about November (just looking forward to getting it over with, and yes, every single year). A big part of the problem in winter for me is the way the garden goes to pieces about mid-October to mid-November. This year that was hastened by our unseasonable cold snap that literally froze the flowers as they bloomed and did not permit us to even have that fragile fading into winter we usually experience.
Despite that, however, it has been a wonderful prelude to winter this year. I have loved all my time out in the garden, doing the most prosaic tasks, tidying, straightening, seeing the structure of the plants when they aren’t covered with all those leaves and flowers. It has also been a lovely, and very dramatic, autumn to be outside. I don’t remember the sky and the clouds being as beautiful day in and day out in any other year. I don’t trust my memory that much any more, so it may just be that I don’t remember that every fall is this beautiful, or it may be that the mental lenses through which I see these days have changed so much. I feel ever more intensely how grateful I am to have gotten the chance to be present on this stunning, complex planet. Watching the clouds as they move with infinite variety across the sky, seeing the sun set in a slightly different spot every night, feeling the minute variations in the intensity and direction of the wind, the moisture content of the air, smelling the plants, the trees, the earth, all of these activities fill me completely with wild joy. Each moment is unique and unrepeatable. If I miss one it is gone forever, so it makes each seem even more precious, more important to experience and savor. My years of dreading winter have finally been replaced with the ability to enjoy the small pleasures that winter brings, to shrink my expectations to the scale of the season. I do not want to waste a moment with dissatisfaction, disappointment or dismissal.
Today was no exception. I went out quite late, and did not expect to stay out long because my hands get so cold, but then, after a session of weeding and raking, as I was briskly putting my tools away suddenly my hands warmed up, and I was able to stay out much longer. I filled another tub with spent iris leaves and unwanted grasses, and then, since I was stepping on my plants in the darkness, I took the dog for one last walk. As I headed to the southwest I got a wonderful solstice gift. The sun had already set, but the clouds parted to the the southwest, and there was beautiful light just at that southernmost point of the sun’s annual arc.
It is the shortest day of the year, but I was able to get every possible drop of light from it after all.