It happens every year around this time. I encounter a run of difficult weather that defeats even my gung-ho “let’s garden all the time” attitude. Yesterday it was a two-inch rainfall. I went out, but only to walk the dog, and I even carried an umbrella. I have a wussy dog who spends the beginning of our walk trying to convince me that this is a really stupid idea and that we should turn back right now and sit by the furnace vent (or, preferably, in it) until winter is over or our bladders have exploded. She has a variety of hopeful faces for this effort, but her trump card is when she just refuses to go any further. She stands, watching me walk away, miserable, casting longing glances at the front door, and then looking back to me. The intent is to get me to capitulate and return to the front door and the house and all the warm, dry, windless delights therein. I have a bigger trump card, however, which is that I am the alpha. I am a good alpha, I never waver, she never wins, I always do. We go walking into the wind, the rain, the snow, the hail, even the darkness with the scary creaking trees, undaunted by her dislike of everything other than a mid-day 68 degrees with a high overcast (she’s from L.A.). And, just like a three-year-old, she finally likes it. After a few minutes she stops looking pleadingly towards the house and does dog stuff, sticking her nose into meaningful holes in the ground, sniffing the same blackberry vine, where something incredibly serious obviously happened, every day without fail, trotting and running. We always have a good walk, but also like a three-year-old, that never really registers, so we go through the very same routine the next day and all winter long.
So I did go out, but even with the umbrella I got very wet, and gardening with an umbrella is really difficult so there was no gardening. Not even my fall-back of potting on the porch. Instead I filed. And watched that wonderful, riveting, addictive, surreal television series Mad Men on dvd. I spent the whole day filing, throwing out my goal of 50 pieces of paper (give or take) a day, and getting the rest into files so that I can find them if needed (it isn’t about storage, it is ALL about retrieval). In the process I found many pages torn from magazines that contained pictures of mouth-watering plants that I intend to grow someday, projects (like a flock of topiary boxwood chickens!) that I hope to undertake, and routines that I would love to get established. My files are full of wishes and dreams, just like my head, only now they are better organized and more accessible; my head is notoriously random.
And all I can think now is that I really hope and pray that I have a lot of somedays ahead of me because I have enough to do in the garden to fill up several lifetimes. Geoffrey Chaucer, quoting Hippocrates, wrote “the life so short, the art so long to learn”. Chaucer was referring to love, Hippocrates to medicine, but really it applies to everything. Just as we are starting to get good at something our powers start to slip away. And when we find our passion in mid-life our powers are already going before we even get started. Until that time machine gets invented, however, we just take what we have, and do with that. I do not know if my garden will ever get anywhere close to being completed because, in some twist of Xeno’s paradox the goal gets ever farther away even while I work towards it (flocks of topiary chickens and the like are definite goal stretchers). But I keep working on it because if we don’t have passion, and goals in our lives they are poor beyond reckoning. So, while I take my little weather-enforced break (today it is snowy), I am also celebrating my garden in all its incompleteness, in all its imperfection, in all of its presence mostly in my head, on paper, in the future, and in other non-existent realms. Maybe someday it will be realized, maybe not, time and circumstance will tell. But I keep dreaming, and keep working, and that gives my days meaning and hope. And, in my life at least, that is enough.