We’re loud. I don’t notice it until we stop to look up at a hawk being bugged by a crow, flying a cursive line over the cliff’s edge along a slate-gray Lake Erie. Without our clomping, snow-crunching strides, the windless air falls into near-perfect silence, save for the ever-present hum of voltage.
My traveling companion and I are walking through the winter wonderland of our neighborhood along the lake. Our city’s snow has made national news. It’s made friends out of neighbors who lend the back-saving work of their snowblowers. It’s made most travel feel unnecessary. It’s closed the mall and canceled events, opening up space in time. It’s unscheduled, unhinged and humbled us, with the not-so-gentle reminder that much of what we think we have to do is actually ours to choose … or not.
It’s made the ordinary streets we walk feel sacred, even for a couple of decidedly ungraceful bipeds wearing Yaktrak-adorned clodhoppers.
This day happens to be our anniversary. We were married in Joshua Tree National Park — a desert landscape that shares much of the stark, silent beauty of our blanketed region.
On that day — a blue moon at the end of 2009 — we commenced our hike on the vista-surrounded Boy Scout Trail in early evening. As the sun set over distant mountains, the moon seemed to rise in a sandy wash, framed by glowy cholla. First glimpse stopped us in our tracks. Silence. Breath. The unmistakable solace of sharing the indescribable with someone you know understands.
Soon moonlight was our lantern. Quiet was our guide. Stillness was our wedding present from the desert.
This year, the full moon falls on New Year’s Day. If the clouds break, what a gloriously white landscape it'll illuminate. Broad and quiet, clean and spare. The perfect blank canvas on which to begin painting a year.
And so, may our brand new calendars remain uncluttered. May our fall-planted bulbs gather strength beneath this heavy snow. May we be flush in seed catalogs. And may we save some space for the wisdom and wonder of winter.
Vegetable gardening always seemed like something that grounded, sensible, virtuous people did. I wasn’t any of those things. But I longed to be, and was willing to sacrifice 100 square feet of lawn and a few packets of seed to get there.
I began with foolishly enthusiastic naiveté, starting several flats of tomatoes indoors, sowing on the new moon, composting compulsively—and envisioning the day I’d share generous bumper crops with friends.
I had no idea what I was doing. For one thing, most of our available garden space spent long summer afternoons in the shade, thanks to the neighbor’s giant white pine. For another, the backyard had previously served as the dumping ground for two large dogs.
But it was what we had, so in early spring, my husband and I headed out with packets of carrot, kale, arugula, spinach, and pea seeds. We loosely followed label instructions and hoped for the best.
“We planted carrots!” I announced to my mom, wishing to finally earn some grownup cred despite being child-free and career-less in my mid-thirties. She obligingly acted proud.
In that first year, I did just about everything wrong. But our little bundles of joy sprouted anyway, forgiving my ignorance. Then the peas toppled for lack of support, the kale was pin-holed by cabbage worms, the spinach’s measly leaves hungered for the nitrogen I’d failed to fix in the soil. And the carrots, despite their fetching lacy green tops, grew spindly, stringy, and wan. Even a rabbit would turn its whiskery nose up at their paltriness.
But we still ate from that little garden. Salads of brightly zesty arugula, sautés of energy-packed kale. I was hooked. Failing had never been so fruitful.
I’ve learned a lot since that first year. I still screw something up every season. But I keep going anyway, like the grownup I might one day become.