It has been so cold, so very very cold, here these past weeks that the sound of rain is a welcome surprise.
A glimpse of sun or blue sky would be even more welcome, but I am relieved to have the freezing fog lift.
I feel spring not so far away. At least I'd like to think so.
This time of winter used to be the very hardest time of year for me.
The holidays, with their coziness and gatherings and warmth, were over.
Spring, with its sweet smells and warmer air and especially longer hours of light, still out of reach.
These really are the dark days, cold and closed in. I have to remind myself to take an hour-long mid-day walk break instead of a lunch break. Before work is too dark. After work is too dark.
However: this is not a gloomy post. Rather, it is about noticing small changes and anticipating others. One of the gifts of riding my bike to and from work is that I have been aware of the few extra minutes of light in the morning and early evening. In November, I cycled home in total darkness. Now I can make it almost to my door before twilight really sets in, and each day is a little longer. I love it, and I'm not sure I would notice if I was driving.
Also, what really turned around this time of year for me, when my boys were small and we all had cabin fever, was becoming a gardener. We would get the new garden catalog each January and start to dream about planting our spring and summer crops. It was so much fun daydreaming over the pictures and seed packets, and planning out when to plant what, and where. Then we would set up a big table near the the window with the most daylight, and start our seeds in tiny cups in early preparation. The fragile ones, like tomatoes and basil. Flower seeds. Catnip. (this was before we had a big brown dog with a curious nose).
One of the first years that we had a garden, the boys must have been aged three and one, or four and two. I distinctly remember turning over the plot wearing p'tit minou deux on my back in a backpack. I also remember being sadly and territorially grumpy with enthusiastic little p'tit minou un about not trampling my newly turned soil. Oh, the things mamas (and papas?) wish they could go back and do differently. Instead of "Stay out of that part of the garden!" I would say, from my now vantage point of a forty-something mama of teens, "Dig! Have fun! Roll in the dirt, and scatter some seeds around while you're in there! I love you!"
Anyway. That first year, or maybe the second, we planted five blueberry bushes which are still alive and thriving, and four feet tall, today. We also started from seed an entire packet of tender, tiny little lavender plants. From seed! Truly a gardener's triumph. One of them remains today, growing in my mother's garden. Several were given as gifts to preschool teachers.
The rest of the lavender starts had a difficult experience, a funny story...I set my sheltered little baby plants under a slatted wooden bench on the back porch to shade them them from the June sunshine. Then I set a giant bowl of bread dough to rise on top of the same bench (I made all our bread weekly back then)...and went away and forgot about it, no doubt distracted by naptime or nursing or diaper changing or laundry or a million other things. When I came back, the bread dough had over-risen and over-flowed through the bench slats, drowning the little plants. P'tit minou un helped me rescue the few we could, picking the dough off their delicate stalks.
And now, it's raining. I'm thinking about spring, and lavender plants and tiny fingers, and basil, and pesto, and sweet days when my boys were little and I didn't always realize how sweet they were. Hold them close and tenderly, those little ones and these days. Dark and cold, rainy, or sunny, they are fleeting.