I remember looking out my bedroom window last March at the stark woods, trying to absorb the idea of a pandemic encroaching upon the earth and reaching all the way down here to what has always been my refuge from the world.
I yearned to see life begin again. And it did. Spring, summer, fall and now winter have come to the hollow, bringing the world ever closer.
As I tramp through the broomsedge and deer tongue with the reassuring progression of the seasons, I see more closely the Christmas fern, witchhazel and alder that adorn the edges of the hollow.
I have become inured to Chinese stilt grass and consider it part of the naturalized landscape, though I know this will appall the nativists.
The older I get, it’s all one to me.
Even lichens open up new galaxies. This is the slate seat of the bench at the end of the meadow path. A little dogwood has set bud for spring out there and reassures me each time I visit. I long to see it bloom.
Sometimes I feel like a princess in a fairy tale, a privileged, mythical creature, walking the boundaries of her gardens, sequestered from reality as in Tennyson’s lines:
On either side the river lie/Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky. . . .
Four gray walls, and four gray towers/Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle embowers/The Lady of Shallot.
Yet the work of the garden intrudes and thankfully keeps me from going completely round the bend.
Putting things to bed at the start of winter – burning last year’s brush pile, cutting the asparagus bed, the old dried marigolds and Thithonia – is satisfying work for one who does not care for the sustained patience and thoroughness required for weeding. I also love to burn it all up at the end.
But the birds are still eating the Tithonia seeds, so I’ll wait til late February and early March to burn them when we cut the meadows, leaving seeds and brush to nurture and shelter the birds and other wildlife over winter.
Though the woods are bare, the days are lengthening and we are set for spring.