mardi 7 février 2012

Bookends

Eric Tabarly roses, February 5

I didn't believe the weather report, or, more truthfully, I didn't really take it seriously. Snow was mentioned for Saturday night, but there hadn't been a flake all winter. The temperatures had dropped, yes, but snow? I took the dogs out for the last time with rock hard soil and crisp blades of grass and fallen Canadian oak leaves underfoot, and in the morning, the shutters still closed, my husband walked out the door of our bedroom and said, "It snowed!" I was on his heel on the landing in a heartbeat. 

I love snow. I cannot tell you how much I love snow. I love snow more than sand; I love snow more than green grass; and, I certainly love snow more than I love what has replaced the green grass, the bare earth, as a consequence of my fall from gardening grace this autumn with my absolute failure to rake up the linden tree leaves, which then covered the grass in a thick blanket of damp for many weeks and killed all the green. 

So, there was no one to warn the roses of their likely fate. Or the violets. They are frozen and discolored, like lettuce in a refrigerator turned up too high. 

It was snowing lightly when we woke up Monday morning, too, and it covered the roads as I drove to the train station to go watch the qualifiers for the 20th Open GDF Suez in Paris at Coubertin, my Christmas-birthday present from my son, which returns me to Coubertin for the quarter-finals Friday. I followed my neighbor, driving his used Jeep Cherokee, in our soon to be dumped Fiat Uno, and I wished his bulk left the room to pass him; I was going to miss my train if he didn't hit the gas a little more.

What's the point of driving your Jeep 4X4 to work in the snow if it's not to drive like there wasn't snow, especially when my little Fiat 2X0 was having no problem? I made the train by 30 seconds. The conductor made an effort to look stern and tell me that it was my responsibility to come looking for him when, in my rush, I forgot to have my ticket punched by the machine on the tracks; I apologized, feeling genuinely grateful that I wasn't going to get a 30€ fine, saying that was why I took the step toward him. He looked at me from under his lowered brow, and made a note on my ticket.

"Oh, vous voulez dire que j'aurais du venir vous chercher dans le train?" I asked, gesturing vaguely toward the space beyond, the cars ahead, closer already to Paris. He nodded, c'est ça, now you've got it. 

I didn't bother explaining what had to seem obvious, that I had no idea which way to head in my effort to find him, and he headed off toward the rear of the train, not looking at anyone's tickets. I could have gotten away with my forgetfulness, although, surely he would have heard my guilty heart beat as he passed close by where I stood on the crowded train. I tried not to feel badly about my honesty and concentrated on the snow-covered landscape between the train and the highway and the Seine beyond, watching the stations pass the direct to Saint Lazare. 

And today, the snow remains on the ground, although I can see the water dripping from the balcony through the panes of the living room window. The afternoon sun, my enemy, is doing its best to rid us of my winter pleasure, the thing that finally removed the constantly present harsh and critical voice in my brain, nagging and nagging: the blanket of lovely snow. Winter, I realized, when it comes properly, is a relief to the gardener. It is soothing. 

It's alright, it says, you may stop now and take a break. 

You have deserved it



When the snow does not come, there is no respite, no sense that you should not be doing something to clean up and ready your garden for spring (especially if you never made the slightest effort in the fall). The season drags on, it has no bookends. We are not given permission to move onto other things and return once the snow thaws for the last time, and the winter ends, leaving us to discover what has been germinating under that snug white coverlet. 

I can only hope for the clouds to return and bring more snow, while the calendar still says winter.

Of course, Gertrude Jekyll would just have gotten her work done.
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