Author and philosopher Albert Camus once wrote: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
Because Camus was a philosopher, I can only assume that there were multiple layers to that line, but perhaps, he was speaking only personally. Many of us can relate, especially now, when the cold and wetness and darkness starts to creep into our bones.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the snow. After living in Florida for four winters. I have grown to appreciate seasonality. I enjoy seeing my breath, feeling the hairs on my beard freeze. I enjoy how the snow sticks to the bare branches of trees and shrubs and the sound it makes when it hits the metal roof.
As a gardener, or one who teaches gardening, I look forward to educating myself about what I can do differently, or what I hope to do when I grow up or what the farm or yard or garden will look like next year. I grow envious of my farmer friends as they look forward to the next growing season and what they will plant and the difference they will make – only to know that come September, they will all be tired and sore, calloused and windblown, and they will occasionally look up to the sky and say, “Please, just two more weeks without a freeze” or “Please, freeze come tonight because I am so sick of finding squash among the prickly leaves.”
I smile, knowing that in less than a month, I will have a class of master gardeners hungry for information. Then, during that first eight-hour class, I’ll watch their eyes glaze over as the amount of facts, hints, photos and bulleted-PowerPoint items race through their brains.
Winter gives me time to think about where my yard, or property, will be in five years. Currently, the small backyard is consumed by shade and by Asher, Bella, Elena and Grey (and London, the dog) as they need the space to let their energy loose and practice baseball and soccer (and stick fetching). It leads Beth and I to ask, “What if?” What if we moved out of town and had acreage to grow, escape and raise animals other than those that go to school. We like living where we can bike to school, work or our favorite park or restaurant. But to have a large garden, greenhouse, chickens or a horse – that would be awesome. Then there’s life to consider: the practices and lessons, full-time jobs, traffic and hours in cars, carting kids back and forth.
But there’s openness. There is a garden that will feed us for months and months, and there is a space where we can teach the kids about life – and death. A space where I can escape to the seat of a tractor and Beth escape to the shade of the cottonwood tree.
So this winter, I will wait patiently. I will wait for spring blossoms and the greening of grass; I will wait for warm summer mornings and alpine wildflowers; I will wait for the smell of fall and the changing of the colors. And then, I will once again wait for the killing frosts, first snows and the cold, dark drive home.
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter