On one of the blogs I follow (http://gardenseyeview.com/2012/12/01/seasonal-celebrations-winter-solistice-2012/) the author challenged her readers to examine the meaning that the solstice had for them. I haven’t contributed to her site before, but the question struck a chord this year. Someone I love is gone from my life now, and in this season I really feel her death and with it, all the things I don’t understand.
My breath is fogging the cold window pane and my forehead is leaning on the glass, the better to see outside onto a frigid landscape—to see the bones of the garden. On the kitchen table, there are stacks of catalogs with perfect pictures of glossy vegetables and glowing descriptions of “days to maturity” and “insect resistance”. Who writes these perpetually hopeful reviews of basil and shiny red peppers?
This is my yearly ritual around the winter solstice. This is my honoring of the deepening season when I know that everything important is going on beneath the earth’s chilly crust. I trust that pact with the earth. And why not? In the sixteen years of my gardening life, life has always come roaring back each spring independent of me, my losses and gains.
This past July, on the 7th of that glorious month to be exact, my sweet Jenny died. Of ovarian cancer, a brutal disease that brings the word “unfair” to mind though what is fair in this wide world? My cousin Jenny, eleven years younger, decades wiser, my cousin/sister/daughter/friend. A gardener much more knowledgeable than me, someone in love with life who really really didn’t want to go.
So in this solstice season I look out on my patch of earth and feel acutely the “thin places” as the Irish say—the bare unadorned winter when the veil between worlds is especially thin—then I bow to my grief and my joy (nearly one and the same these days) and dedicate this year’s garden to Jenny. May she guide my hands. May she get some dirt under her nails.