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16 January, 2011


Since the winter solstice (26 days ago), I've been cooped up aside from wandering the wind-froze canyons of Portland for a couple or three days. Tending the fire and a cold, scrounging up meals, near hibernation. A big cold snapped and sent clouds running for a few days, but the little cold kept me in for the most part, watching the hoar accumulate in the long winter shadows until it looked like we'd been snowed on. I ventured no farther than the woodpile and the bus stop. (And let's be honest, like most middle class enviros, I took the car ride when offered and the bio-fueled bus thus rode on one rider less efficiently.)

But coming home from work the other day, done with a hard week and virtuously waiting for the bus, I saw the light. Twilight, I guess, but anything that keeps the 5:30 sky from being something other than dark counts in winter. Like thousands of generations before me, I breathed a sigh of relief that the days would not just keep getting shorter forever, felt in my ear the tenderotic breath of Persephone.

So today when the clouds thinned and the rain that has pissed incessantly on the south sound since the sunshine daydream let up for a couple of hours, I fled outside. Needed to flea the air in this house: smoked by fireplace, caughed by denizens, staled by cold and spored by mold.

Required as well--fingers in the earth. So it was into the front, to a triangle of bare dirt and its assortment of uninvited and well intended plants. Down on my hands and knees pulling weeds, killing my back but healing my soul. On a material level, the goal was to get rid of dandelions and cheatgrass, clover and other aggressives, root out the competition for the collection of camas and lomatia, bitterroot and alliums, a suite of eats native to the northwest, if not exactly the Puget basin. This will be a meadow, dotted with sage and lavendar. I'll probably wait til another round of weeds sprout, then slice their roots and let them die before putting out the mixed bag of seeds I've been collecting east of the Cascades. The front yard, in full sun and tilted to get the most of it in summer, is my microcosmic eastern Washington.

At the bottom of the yard is a garlic patch. Over a dozen dozen sets surrounding a small cherry tree. Set out last October in the lowest part of the yard, and thus the wettest and coldest, the garlic was a worry for me. The patch froze hard within a couple or three weeks of having been planted, and then it got warmer and wet. The pattern happened again around New Years, with a bigger freeze and complete saturation after. I figured there'd be heavy losses.

And it looks like that even as you walk up to the patch. Only down on all fours, fingertweezing out offending grasses, are the sprouts visible. In the meadow too, tips of tulips and tiny bursts of bitterroot appear to eyes in near-earth orbits. As the weeds come out, violets come to light. Get microscopic in the microcosmos, and signs of emergence are everywhere. In among the mouldering leaves of last year, lavendar shoots emanate. Sedum, beat up and rolled around over the winter, has unveiled the genius of it's strategy, setting down roots from every scattered frag so they can knit themselves together and blanket the poorest ground. Budswell (gods, how I love saying that word)
has begun on blueberries and saskatoon, fat embryonic liko getting ready to greet the air.

It doesn't take much to make me happy. A few more minutes of daylight, the tintiest indication of growth...the promise of a phenomenal future when grey births green, when foliage feeds flowers, when seeds escape their stale dull insides and start growing, reborn and eternal.

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