It’s winter and all of nature is resting because all living things need rest.
We humans are the only creatures that don’t take the winter off. When the days grow short and darkness comes early, the wild things burrow in and take a nap. But we turn on the lights and watch TV or surf the net or catch up on work. While we drive ourselves to keep producing, nature takes a four month vacation. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I took a four-month vacation
So I invite you to take a moment now to rest and relax into the world of story for a breath or two.
When I was 7 we lived in a big Victorian house with a little tiny yard in Parkersburg West Virginia back in the day when everyone grew a garden. It was just what you did.
A lot of people grew vegetables but my preacher Daddy only grew flowers, especially roses. He had all the popular ones: the shimmering white, fragrant JFK, the pink Queen Elizabeth grandaflora, and the everything a great rose should be velvety red Mister Lincoln with its 6 inch blooms.
The roses ringed our yard in carefully cultivated organic beds. When the Japanese beetles got on his roses, no pesticide would touch their flesh. Daddy would fill a small glass jar with gasoline and borrow the tweezers from Mother’s vanity. He’d get up before dawn, crouch between the roses like a ninja warrior, wait for the sun to rise and illuminate the beetle’s iridescent shells, and then one by one tweeze them off, drop them into the gasoline, and watch them fight for their lives all the way to the bottom of the jar in some weird return to WW Two.
But then my mother’s mother, a 100 pound, 94-year-old mountain matriarch came to live with us and she had no use for roses: “too many thorns, too much trouble.” When she came at Thanksgiving she decreed that we would have a vegetable garden that spring, which was a problem because the small amount of yard that was not taken up by my swing set was already planted with Daddy’s flowers and roses. But Grandma couldn’t see that because the flowerbeds had died back, so she didn’t know a problem was brewing.
In January the Burpee seed catalog came and as Grandma washed the dishes after supper she debated the virtues of corn: Silver Queens vs Country Gentlemen and tomatoes: Mr Stripeys vs Beefstakes, while Daddy sat in his armchair by the fire, crouched behind the Jackson and Perkins rose catalog, eyeing the latest All American tea roses and floribundas.
I made paste Valentines in February while Grandma ordered enough seeds to plant a small farm and Daddy closed the door to his study and ordered two new All American tea roses and a flashy floribunda.
The snow melted.
Daddy dug up the ground around our swings for his new tea roses and grandma snuck in and planted peas around the feet of the swing-set before staking out a row of tomatoes next to his dahlias.
Daddy built a new trellis and planted his hot pink floribunda. Grandma planted silver queen and runner beans on the other side. Every square inch of our back yard that was not taken up by our swing set that year held roses and turnips, dahlias and runner beans.
By the time the family reunion came in July, my sister and I had no place to play because Grandma’s peas had climbed the swing-set and were spilling down the slide. It doesn’t take long for life to crowd you out, does it?
So as these last few days of winter coat the world in frost take a cue from Mother nature: send your roots deep into the quiet and rest.