Did you see Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction last week? Six more weeks of winter. I sure hope the groundhog is wrong – like they say he is 61 percent of the time. I rather prefer FuFu, the hedgehog (an African pygmy hedgehog at the Oregon Zoo) – who says we’re in for an early spring.
Either way, this time of the year, many of us are ready to shake off the long, brown coat of winter.
As the daylight increases - adding a few minutes of sunlight daily - our bodies instinctively think of spring; of green; of hope. We might start eyeballing the local nursery that undoubtedly will be adding Pansies and Primrose on the shelves soon.
But before we get too excited for the next season, there’s virtue in staying put. In waiting.
To run ahead and buy small, vulnerable flowers will likely only produce a stunted garden. You see, the ground needs to warm up for plants to grow roots. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put flower and vegetable starters in the ground only to have them freeze before they ever grew strong enough to withstand the chilly nights.
The ground takes longer to warm up then the air. That’s why we can have full sun days and still have snow on the ground in the spring. And also why we can have chilly winds, but still feel the warmth of the earth and have harvest in the fall.
The earth obeys the seasons. So shouldn’t we?
So much of our human experience is able to manipulate our environment that perhaps in some respect, we’ve forgotten that we have limits. We build buildings that defy gravity and run electricity into the darkest caves, we eat fresh strawberries in the winter and have hot water at our fingertips. We seldom have to wait for anything – unless it’s slow fast food lines or annoying traffic jams.
But this is the very behavior that is changing the climate of the planet we live on; human time not respecting natural time.
Now, I’m not advocating that we all start canning beans, writing with ink and pen and burning with wood to keep ourselves warm – but I am encouraging you and me to let ourselves take a break from gardening in this winter season.
Is there some task you promised yourself you’d do in the new year? Winter is a great time to organize closets, photographs or old paperwork and receipts. It’s the perfect time to visit or write some old friends you’ve lost touch with. Maybe your recipe box or your tool shed could use some culling through.
Before you get out in the garden and start turning the soil, force yourself to wait for the spring rains to help with this task. Let the little earthworms and bacteria wake up with the warmer days, left alone in their delicate habitats. Don’t turn wet soil.
Stick your hands in mittens and take a nice long walk outside.
Get out and enjoy nature’s rhythm. Discover how the earth exchanges its winter dress for its spring frock. Have you noticed the buds on trees fattening? We always think of spring as green, but this pre-spring is actually more reddish and bronze. The same chemicals that make the fall pigment are present in the leaf buds before the heat and sun trigger the making of chlorophyll. The changes are subtle, I’ll admit, but sustainable growth takes time. It takes preparation.
It takes patience.
And it’s worth it.
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson