by Audrey Y. Scharmen
On a gloomy day comes a package from a friend who lives now in the far Wisconsin woods where, she says, the snow lies deep and clean and the rare arbutus slumbers beneath. I sigh as I glance out at the monotonous landscape of our drab winter.
The package contains precious bergamot with pink petals of summer clinging still to the fragrant dried sprigs. Enclosed are instructions for brewing a tea to heal my bronchitis, and there is a bouquet of white sage to burn in the incense pot to cleanse the premises of negativism. So it is with health and attitude improved I will make it through the dragging days of an eerie season.
Outside my window, the mockingbird is protecting a pitiful cache of dried pokeberries in the bleached boughs of the shrub. He flies frantically from backyard to front, where he claims rights as well to the withered fruit of a crabapple tree. There are frequent air strikes from starlings and cedar waxwings, and he is losing the battle. He could easily win with support from a few friends. Alas, he has none.
Bluebirds are bickering over ownership of the single birdhouse, and two pair of mallards noisily debate squatters rights to a meager supply of corn. Gentle finches and wrens and chickadees eat their fill while ignoring the melee.
In the front yard, it is quiet when I go out to clear away the dead stalks of flowers. Rosettes of green and spikes of daffodils are showing beside the fence. An ancient rose vine that fled the well-diggers a spring or so ago has made it to the top of a very tall conifer where, last autumn, it bore an amazing bunch of scarlet blossoms at the pinnacle: a red flag of victory from one who survived many a crisis to reach the summit.
There is a scent of crushed herbs amid the gray dampness there on the porch where I linger. Euphoria kicks in (it is always somewhere in a garden, no matter the season) and I dream of the summer to come. Like the old climber (we are about the same age in rose years), I should strive now for the pinnacle.
This will be the year I landscape the small dooryard with slate pavers and plant in all the cracks creeping thyme with perfect blue flowers and the fragrance of Provence. This will be the year when 300 plugs of zoysia sprout in bare corners where we planted them last spring. They still must be down there someplace, for heavensake.
Beside the porch, I make note of an evening primrose that should have blossomed in June but came instead in December. A squirrel has rearranged the sweet violets. The crazy coral honeysuckle has bloomed all winter. Thus I make a promise to be a more attentive gardener. I will grow bergamot and white sage, and my perennials will be of uniform height and compatible colors.
I will conquer my nemesis, the computer, and join the ranks of real writers. I will assemble my nature-columns and they will become a book. One simply must have faith. Its a good thing. (Didnt Martha Stewart say that?)
What the heck! Its never too late to be what you might have been. (George Eliot said that.)
Time to temper the euphoria with a bit of despondency and a good dose of negativism. Its called reality. (Audrey Scharmen said that.)