Follow by Email

Search This Blog

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Winter Dreaming

As my world is blanketed in white, and the sun grows daily weaker, the gardening books are searched out, carefully dusted off, and take up residence on coffee tables, kitchen counters and bedside tables.  Though I've ruthlessly culled my 'library', these are never at risk.  Winter would be bleak indeed without them.  They're the only living green I see for many months, with the poor exception of indoor potted plants - pathetic shadows of their wild cousins in warmer climes. Think of the huge and sprawling groves of rubber trees in the tropics, then of the sad, gangly thing Aunt Bertha in Calgary proudly calls her potted rubber tree.  Even evergreens look less green than grey or even black, in the dim light and deep cold of a northern winter.  

One of my favorites is Really Small Gardens by Jill Billington.
This color sketch was done on the iPad, from a photo in it of a stone garden fountain.

I did the one below last night after taking the dog out for his bedtime trot.  We'd had ice fog for the past couple of days, with extreme cold. Everything was crusted with glittering magic.  There was just enough light from the street lamp at the end of the alley to make things sparkle in the biting cold. I'd laid a fire in the fireplace before going out, and turned the kettle on.  
I suppose the warm fire, hot cuppa and the dog curled up on my feet as I cozied up to doodle wouldn't feel nearly so delicious if i hadn't just come in from that brutal cold.  Perhaps we need contrasts to teach us the worth of what we have... despair to learn joy; darkness to realize light; loneliness to cherish love;  adversaries to value friends; dearth to savor abundance; hardship to be grateful for comfort; and cold to remind us that we cannot live without warmth.


susan said...

Your gardening books sound wonderful and I can well understand your need of them living so very far north as you do. I've always thought every northern city should have a botanical garden where people can go year round to enjoy the sweetness and beauty of a permanent large garden. Wouldn't that be cool? The Public Gardens here have large greenhouses but the only time they open them to the public is two weeks in June when you can see all their flowers planted outdoors. I mean what's the point of that?

The only time I've ever really gardened was over the course of eight summers in Portland when we had a large and beautifully situated balcony. That was when I collected garden books and plant catalogs during our dark and rainy (but rarely freezing) winters. I'm not sure if I'll plant one here but may be considering it in a few months.

I loved your thoughts about contrasts. I have a favorite poem by Thomas Hardy you might like:

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

As your world is blanketed in white, ours is turning brown yet we stil relish singing as a choir “in the bleak midwinter”.

My little vegetable patch is thriving this year with a good harvest of zucchini, shallots, lettuce, tomatoes and pumpkin.

Your colour sketch looks very nice-along with you sage comments in the previous post.

Best wishes

gfid said...

Su - i agree with you - what's the purpose of a 'Public Garden' that's open to the public garden for 2 weeks of the year? there are a group of 3 or 4 huge pyramid shaped greenhouses in the river valley in Edmonton, called Muttart Conservatory, that are similar to what you imagine. i haven't been to them in several years - last i heard they were getting a bit run down because funding was getting difficult to find.

i'm SO looking forward to beginning to dig and plant and prune and scheme over my lovely Miramichi House's yard. there will be flowers everywhere one day, berries and northern fruits, meandering paths and lovely comfy places to sit and just enjoy it all. i'm determined that life will, from now on, be much saner an aesthetically beautiful.

i love the poem. my heart aches at the thrush who had "chosen thus to fling his soul Upon the growing gloom." sometimes the creation of beauty feels exactly like that, doesn't it?

Lindsay - i'll think of you carolling in the bleak brown midwinter, going home to a feast of home grown zucchini, shallots, lettuce, tomatoes and pumpkin this Christmas season. it will warm me as i lumber eiderdown clad through blinding drifts of white, with as little bare skin exposed to the razor sharp wind as possible.

all of the things you mention are on my wish list for the 'new' garden next summer..... along with flowers of every description.

linda said...

your contrasts were incredibly moving to me...thank you for reminding me of my many blessings this new years eve...the sun is shining brightly this morning through my bedroom window, the tea is freshly brewed and bella just took her kefir and went outside to touch noses with the cows...i wish i could capture a moment but have yet to be sneaky enough...all is pretty right in the world right now! xox