Tag Archives: winter

Gardening in sunshine and breezes.

The picture below shows clearly how I’ve kept one of my Elephant Heart plum trees (far left) to about half the size of the other, by my prunings over the last few seasons. I don’t know why that is, but I seem to have continued the trend today. I pulled on my jeans and was out with the loppers before breakfast, because my gardener-helper was coming and would be able to clean up after me.

The north side of my garden is especially shady on this winter day, but it is a sunny and drying-out kind of day in any case, in the midst of a series of also welcome waterings. Everything is damp, and the sunshine drew out the scents of all the plants that we were trimming and cleaning up: a little bay tree in a pot, rose geranium, lemon. Alejandro said that even the fig branches gave off a pleasant smell where we sliced off a few branches in our team effort to shape that tree.

I found a flower on the fava beans, and buds on the azealea. The strawberry runners that I staked into the soil have taken firm root under the rice straw that is now so sodden that we threw it out. I hope it’s true, what those “old-timers” predicted when they saw the lizards last summer, that we will have a mild winter.

But the midwinter of 2018 was mild, prompting the fruit trees to bud early enough that they got frosted later on, ruining at least the plum crop — at least, that’s what Mr. Greenjeans, my youngest old-timer friend, told me.

I hated to stop my gardening this noon; I never get my fill of seeing the new buds, and pine boughs waving in the breeze – but A. and I both had tasks elsewhere to tend to. As the days grow longer there will be plenty more work to provide us with happy times in the dirt and leaves and fresh air. Every day in the garden reveals change and new beauty.

The glory of wetness and a black mark.

“It is a bleak sort of day, but I’m glad to be out walking.” Something like that was my thought as I set out on my creek path this morning. A white shape caught my eye, silently winging down the creek, and within two seconds it passed by me close enough to see that it was egret. Then, gone behind the trees.

I had read a poem by Wendell Berry about mud in January, and I looked at the muddy creek, stirred up and deep from recent rains. It wasn’t photogenic, but it was briefly captivating. Flowing streams are good to look at for a few minutes, but there is too much busyness there, and I get restless.

When I pulled my eyes away and to other things, I found a unusual depth to even the neutral colors, from all the leaves and bark and needles being entirely wetted. I have walked by these trees for almost 30 years now ! but this is the first time I noticed their massiveness. As I studied the chunky patterns on their trunks of pines, it took me a long time to notice another design style in the spider’s web.

I ran across a wide road to get nearer the fields, and on the faraway other side of those hayfields and pastures whiter clouds hung in drifts on the hillsides, below the gray sky. This is a day between rainy days; those clouds may be forming into bringers of rain by now, but then they were waiting and still…

Wherever redwood trees towered above me on the path, thousands of their little cones littered my path. How many are lying on the ground just in this neighborhood? And each one a wonder. I stuffed my pockets with them.

After my camera battery was spent, I watched fat robins bathing in the creek’s muddy overflow, their wings fluttering and splashing. Today some Orthodox are celebrating the Nativity of Christ, and yesterday was our (new calendar) feast of the Baptism of Christ. Water is the joyous theme, as it is a fundamental substance of our life, and a fitting symbol for all of creation. Christ baptizes the earth with His baptism, sanctifying it, filling it with Himself. The days on this earth can only be bleak inasmuch as I am not noticing the glory. Why do I forget this reality? I can’t remember ever finding a bleak day out of doors; even when my mood is low, the glory lifts it and comforts me.

This evening, water was sprinkled all over my house, as we walked around singing about our Lord’s baptism, by which he revealed Himself and the entire Holy Trinity. At the end, my priest surprised me when he reached up with the snuffed-out candle and painted a waxy cross on the ceiling near the front door. I had never seen this done before! It feels like a resurrectional form of the Israelites marking their lintels with blood. I am in awe.

The day has been a complete blessing.

Now that the days are growing…

Do you know that the Pre-Festal Hymns begin on the twentieth of December? light palm & xmas tree sf 2012 - CopyThe Church has also wisely set the last day in which the night grows longer. On the twenty-first of the month the day begins to grow longer. The nights and noetic darknesses leave while light and days increase. Let us ask God to take away from us the darkness of our hearts now that the days are growing and they become completely illumined, now that the time of the year is changing. The Church announces this to us with the rising of the true light, the Sun of our souls.

-Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra

He never says you should have.

This poem by John Donne I believe did not start out as a poem. Someone posted it as follows, in poetic lines, but I found the same lines as prose on Bartleby.com, in the middle of a passage in “Sermons Preached on Christmas Day.” Donne evidently did not give the title “In Heaven it is Always Autumn” to anything, but more than one person has more recently used his line to title a poem, as I found in my searching.

Donne uses several vivid words to describe the winter we can experience in our soul at any time of year, showing that he is familiar with that inner dark and coldness. We know that he did suffer terrible grief when his wife died, and it was doubtless not the only occasion when he felt desperate need of God’s presence and mercy.

The first time I posted these words it was autumn, but now I am trying for closer to Christmas, in the spirit of their preacher.

In heaven it is always autumn,
His mercies are ever in their maturity.
We ask our daily bread
And God never says
You should have come yesterday,
He never says
You must again tomorrow,
But today if you will hear His voice,
Today He will hear you.
He brought light out of darkness,
Not out of a lesser light;
He can bring thy summer out of winter
Tho’ thou have no spring,
Though in the ways of fortune or understanding or conscience
Thou have been benighted til now,
Wintered and frozen, clouded and eclipsed,
Damped and benumbed, smothered and stupefied til now,
Now God comes to thee,
Not as in the dawning of the day,
Not as in the bud of the spring
But as the sun at noon,
As the sheaves in harvest.

– John Donne, 1624

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the archives – 2014