Thursday, January 6, 2011

Growing Things

Hooray! Christmas is packed and waiting to go to the storage shed. The pudding is being worked off. Snow is (finally!) on the ground and so it must be time for SEED CATALOGUES!

I have been (mostly patiently) waiting for the moment I could open these little beauties. It’s a time to contemplate the season when life begins again before the work of that new life kicks in. Sort of like pre-pregnancy planning. I was never such a good parent as I was before I got pregnant. Likewise, I’m never a better gardener than in January.

I’ve got three catalogues in my soil-stained hands. The Cook’s Garden (new to me this year), Burpee (don’t generally trust them after all those stupid little sticks I’ve planted and which never did more than mock me) and my favorite old stand-by, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Someday, I’m going to make a pilgrimage to Mansfield, Missouri to worship at the altar of their tomato genius. I’ve been dropped by Seed Savers, which must have grown wise to my “circle it but never buy it” perusal of their wares.

I’m sure you’re all on the edge of your seats, dying to know what I’m going to plant. Me, too. This year, I’ve got a room set aside, with a window and a grow light, ready for me to start seeds early. I’m going to try tomato seeds. So far, tomato seeds have been like the lottery: always around but never fruitful in my hands. I’ll start them in a couple of weeks. Then, in the Spring, I’ll head over to the local family-owned farm to buy real tomato plants. It’s not pessimism. It’s realism. Realism sweetened by January hope.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Asleep By 11:00

Okay, so the only time New Year’s Eve has been a big deal for me was when I was a teenager. And then, it wasn’t about ushering out the Old Year and seeing in the New. It was more about maneuvering for a kiss at midnight. Except the coolest year, when I dragged my 2 best friends to a hockey game. They hated hockey. I loved it.

Anyway, here’s the deal about New Year’s Eve. You’re not actually done with anything, are you? So midnight passes--does that mean your financial woes are over? Or that you’ve grown those extra 2 inches? Or that the boy you’ve always wanted will get his stuff together and propose? Or that the fluorescent green you dyed your hair will be a normal shade at the stroke of midnight. Nope. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but a new year does not mean an end to the stuff that made the old year suck.

But the good news: it also does not mean that the good stuff is gone. I figure, if Bacchus turned the clock and you found yourself a whole new person as soon as 2011 started, then you’d have to give up the happy stuff, too. You can’t choose to send away the bad on the winds of 2010, without effort, just because we go by the Gregorian calendar, unless you’re willing to say “ciao” to the good, too. If I learned anything by reading all those myths as a kid, it’s this: you don’t make bargains with the gods like that. You say you want to blink and all the bad juju will be gone, well, you’ll find that you just lost your only chance to save your wife from the underworld or everything you touch turns to gold or something like that. Gods don’t bargain. They set rules, but they don’t tell you what they are, and the rules are designed to make you fail, anyway. Want to win that race so you can marry the princess? Then you’ve got to cheat a god out of 3 gold apples. You’ll probably lose your life in the process. And even if you don’t, then one of your children will grow up to sleep with his mother and kill you, so you're better off keeping your own set of trials, ya know? Oh, sure, you’ve got a whole slough of heros who defeat the odds. But not because a year turned. Prometheus did not just wake up one morning to find that he had already delivered fire. And, once he had, he still had to deal with Pandora.

I’m saying, here, that there has to be struggle in overcoming challenges. Otherwise, it’s Faust’s bargain, which ain’t much of a bargain. I’d prefer to get my knowledge the hard way, thank you, and keep my soul at the end.

I do, occasionally, make resolutions at the beginning of a new year. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted each action to mean something. But I gave myself more than a year to accomplish it. I think it’s going well so far. I’m better at it now than I was 10 years ago. I have more fulfilling interactions with people, more beauty in my day, less cleaning. I find cleaning very destructive to living deliberately. I also wanted to eat deliberately. And, while I still find myself stuffing my face with nasty Healthy Choice frozen meals, I also find that I’m more likely to try a sunchoke or make fondue on a Sunday afternoon.

Here’s the summary: I would be very disappointed to think that the end of a year meant the end of the me I had been that year. I would be sad to think that I only had one year to fulfill my goals, or that goals had to work from January to January. Who said 1 rotation around the sun, beginning in the middle of a season no less, would be a good measurement? Why not start in Spring, when everything seems to start? That means Australia and the US would have different “New Years”. Or, what if there’s a bigger rotation, say, once around the Milky Way? Now, that would be something worth staying awake to celebrate.