Perennial

I like to garden, which is an odd topic to bring up at the end of December. But with the shortest day of the year this week, I’m looking forward. Spring is of course a gardener’s favorite season, so I’m getting ready by creating a nose-spot on the window glass overlooking the patch of ground From Which Joy Is To Come.

But first, let’s revel in the misery of the current mess. No matter how much you like Autumn, the fact of the matter is that in fall the garden collapses. Yes, collapses is the word. Garden books will rhapsodize about “transitions” and “changing vistas”, but the fact is that the garden just falls apart. There is a pretty blush of color, and a fragile, momentary passage where the foliage is suspended, like a hanging victim before the trap door opens. And then it all gives way. Piles of dead vegetable matter everywhere on the ground. Your lush, secluded little sanctuary suddenly barren, a prison of naked branches and howling wind. Do I awfulize? Yes, and I’m enjoying it, so don’t interrupt me.

Those same garden books often have a chapter on “Gardening year-round,” but the chapters on Winter Months are as usually about as bare as the landscape. Rake up! Install some stakes and strings! Mulch! Burlap might come in handy! Enjoy the “good bones” of your garden design, the way you would enjoy the “good bones” of a visiting skeleton. Oh, and sharpen and oil your garden tools, in case you decide to kill yourself with them! Fie. My winter gardening consists mostly of occasional standing on the bleak cold ground, staring at the wreckage and feeling the gloomy chill dragging my soul away. Then I retreat indoors and work on my nose window-spot while I try to imagine Springtime. And so I will imagine. The leafbuds are already formed, however small, and the bulbs are poised and ready. As the sun realizes its mistake and starts its return to the Northern Hemisphere Where it Belongs, the lengthening days and strengthening light will bring it all back to life, and me with it.

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog.

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