Is it a new year? As I walk around this week, I wonder when the new year starts and the old one ends. The sun won’t start rising earlier until next week, and the days won’t start feeling longer until the end of the month. Of course, we all know January 1 is a somewhat arbitrary day to start the new year. I’m more partial to the vernal equinox. Even more revolutionary would be to suggest that there is no beginning and no end, just the constancy of the movement of the planets. That starts to feel dizzying in its scope when you contemplate it. It is only human to be attached to beginnings and endings, because it seems our lives are ordered that way.
The winter is always a good time for these maybe pointless questions. The snow and ice only just completely melted from the big snow we got at the tail end of Thanksgiving weekend, so it feels like we have been stuck in February for this whole time. Not an entirely brilliant prospect if you are familiar with this area’s late winter. The ice stayed for an incredibly long time, and it’s nice to see the rich browns of the leaves lining the paths again. Even nicer still are the vibrant greens of the mosses showing on the rocks.
Everything has been covered with ice, so that my walking has been confined to few places. Now that I am back out on the trails I am noticing the changes of the past month, like a favorite oak downed over the path that took several younger trees with it. The destruction is almost shocking, as we climbed over the venerable tree, really experiencing its size. The tree was distinctive due to a massive burl it had on its trunk low to the ground, giving it a unique shape. Inside, where the burl was, there was dark rotted soil and only a shell of bark around it. It was only a matter of time before this tree would fall.
Further down the trail, I suddenly got a whiff of something so horrible that it can only be equated with animal death. Strong smells are stronger now that the ice has melted. I stopped and looked around to see what it was, and sure enough the striking red and white of a rib cage was not far off the trail. On closer inspection (and while breathing through my nose) I learned it was a small doe. It was a fairly grisly scene, but it is possible that the deer was starving or unwell, and the animal that dispatched it (coyote most likely) was very hungry. Over the course of a few days the carcass was dragged about and soon disappeared.
We have had many cloudy gray days, so yesterday when the sun rose, I was elated to see blue sky. It really felt like the whole month of December was gray. Isn’t December normally a brisk and clear month? Could this sunny day be the herald of a new year? The clouds filled in over the course of the day, but in the late afternoon there were still a few streaks of sun and blue sky. Coming down the hill on a trail by the river, the water caught some light from the setting sun, and the surface seemed to shimmer with pinks and blues. I ran to catch the light, but by the time I got there the otherworldly quality of the reflected water disappeared. Still quite beautiful though.
I took out a bunch of gardening books from the library the other day, the sting of last year’s garden defeats already softened by time. I am once again excited to plan out next year’s garden. The thing most on my mind is how to rethink my gardening with the lens of climate change. I discussed this with a friend, who is a professional, and she said she plans to utilize row covers throughout the whole growing season to stave off the new bugs she is seeing. I grew collards this year and did notice a new worm munching on them. She said it was a southern bug moving into our territory. I keep thinking that I’d like to focus more on spring and fall gardens, and we both agreed that maybe growing tomatoes will not be the easy thing it used to be in the past, due to the severe heat in August. What do you think?