Indoor Garden

beginningsHere’s how it starts: a lump of a bulb, some dirt, water, and a great big window keeping the cold midwestern winter out. Add time. That’s it, just time – the bulb is tightly packed with flowers, waiting to escape. If you cut off the first amaryllis stalk after it fades, another will come up and bloom. You do nothing to deserve this, but there it is.

In fact, the dirt is optional. The bulbs will bloom without it, but if you have an urge to feel necessary, give them potting soil along with the water and let the leaves grow for a few months when the flowers are gone, and the amaryllis indoor bulbswill stock itself back up so it can do this again next year. But don’t let it go to your head. The narcissus may or may not go along with this.

For another connection to February, both these staples of reliable indoor beauty are named for characters in stories of obsessive love. In the case of Narcissus it ended badly, but Amaryllis got her shepherd. Whether their efforts were wise or misguided, they showed great determination, and released their inner natures. Metaphor is everywhere in the garden, indoors and out.

Deep Freeze

inside pane

ice on the inside

Ice crept in under doorways and wind polished the sky: minus seventeen degrees on the thermometer, minus thirty six with windchill. Skin would be frostbitten in five or ten minutes depending on your source of information, which I decided not to test.

People in Michigan are hardy in the cold – it’s called winter; life goes on – so when I tell you everything’s been closed and cancelled for the last two days you know it’s serious. I put on my thick Chilean alpaca sweater and found I could stand on the porch for a few minutes wearing it. I had to find out what this kind of cold felt like.

The first thing I felt was a bold slap on my cheeks, the kind you usually get from wind. But at this particular moment there was no wind. Air this cold didn’t need to be moving to assault you.

deer trails end 2

didn’t see the deer but I see where they slept

The next thing I noticed was how quiet it was. Was this a feature of extreme cold, or was it due to lack of traffic, birds, dog walkers, or any form of life at all except me?

In a few moments a faint creep of chill rattled at my hands, feet, and legs in their ordinary wool and leather. That was when I realized all the parts of me covered by the sweater, wrists to neck to hips, were warm. This was not only how the alpacas of Chile withstood the climate of the Andes, it was how the Inca did. Strange as this cold is to me here now, there are places in the world where people have always dealt with it.

Doug built a fire in the fireplace. The state’s Department of Natural Resources stopped requiring a permit to collect downed firewood in state forests, for the duration of the Polar Vortex. We’re burning wood that came down in our own backyard in last year’s storms, relying on the squirrels to keep planting walnuts, acorns, and wild cherry pits for a perpetual new crop of trees. If the deer don’t eat all the saplings, the woods will continue to restore themselves.