It was pretty awful to end the gardening year with a blizzard on 26 November. Last year it snowed for a month starting just before Christmas Eve, and I thought that was bad. We’ve now had 2 feet of snow in two weeks, with a low of -14 Celsius.
When I was little I loved snow so much I prayed for it, but I have a hard time liking it now. That’s despite having seen how well it protects my plants. I didn’t lose much in the garden this summer, and yesterday I was able to dig out helleborus foetidus from melting snow. It looked like it had just lain its head down for a rest, and it stood up again.
This proof of life was interesting, but it didn’t change the numbness I’ve felt toward the garden since the blizzard. It’s the kind of ennui that defines ennui: defeated, empty, apathetic. Usually on a tea break or before falling asleep I wrap myself in thoughts about the garden: plans for new roses, spring planting combinations, schemes to get height into the border. But these last two weeks, the thoughts won’t come. It’s as if the garden had been compulsorily purchased and a high fence erected between me and it.
But today I did five minutes of what could pass for gardening. All I did was push pea sticks into a bowl of hyacinths I’ve been forcing. I got the most fleeting taste of that mad joy – nurturing a plant that needs something, studying its miraculous form, anticipating bloom-time.
Okay, it was barely gardening, but it was enough to dig me out of the snow and help me stand up again.
I’ve written a sonnet about the snow. Want to hear it?
The flakes are smudges on the whiter sky,
its blankness scribbled over left to right
by airy, aimless polka dots of snow;
Its business is silent smothering
of branches, berries, buds that don’t protest,
although I do; the plants have left their things
along the border by the garden wall
and snow is gaily claiming everything,
dizzy and oblivious, like one who
forgets the morning by the afternoon;
The garden’s gone, why do I seek it here?
perhaps the snow knows what it has to do:
protect what has withdrawn into the earth
and mark the place to watch for white rebirth.