February 22, 2009
It's a gesture of optimism, planting seeds in deep winter. Outside our windows the snows fall, as though we lived inside a snowglobe that God persists in shaking. The beautiful winter world, with its subtle shades of brown and white and grey.
I have a Texan's love for snow. It was such a miracle in my childhood that I persist in finding it miraculous now. It cushions everything, muffles color and sound. Some days I bestir myself to go out in it, and then I marvel at the way the snowy air feels in my mouth and throat, its myriad textures and sounds underfoot. Most days I sit indoors instead, warmed by my laptop and the fire and the aroma of stock on the stove.
Over the years that we've had this house, we've slowly been making our mark on the land. The blueberries we so lovingly planted were decimated by the caterpillar incursion, and never really came back. But the berry canes are hardy and strong, to all appearances happier than their wild cousins, and I have high hopes that our fruit saplings will weather this first winter with aplomb. (Really with some pears and some apples. Sorry. Couldn't resist.)
The berries and fruit trees are kind of an anomaly for us, though. As longtime members of a beloved CSA, we haven't generally tried to grow much food. Why would we, when our share of Caretaker's harvest is more than we can eat? But we keep a few herbs in pots on our back deck, and pinch off a bit here and there. About a quarter of our back lawn is made up of wild thyme; we cook with it all summer long, and the scent it generates when Ethan mows is heavenly.
This year we decided it was time to try a proper herb garden. So Ethan started seeds for half a dozen different herbs last week. We tried this once before, years ago. I got as far as tiny seedlings in their little peat pots, and then something went awry. They dried out, or the cat ate them, I no longer remember. So this feels like a leap of faith.
But surely planting seeds is a leap of faith under any circumstances. That these tiny dried dots will yield fragrant foliage to spice and perfume our cooking for a whole season: how can that be true? They're nothing. Pure potential, waiting to be unlocked.
On a day like today -- soft white falls from the sky; we are curled up with laptops and the Sunday Times, the picture of winter domesticity -- it's almost inconceivable that the world will ever be a riot of green. But it will. That's what planting seeds is all about: trusting in the alchemy of soil and water and light, potential and time. There's no knowing what wonders are dormant, waiting for the right moment to sprout.