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January 8, 2005
Oh, my -- the first of the garden catalogues are arriving. Actually, a few made it into the mail box before Christmas, but I was too busy then to think about them, and they deserve to be savored slowly, daydreamed over. No, the garden books are for January and February, those dark months when you really need a garden to think about.

Yesterday I hung the very cool tree watering funnel we used for the first time this year down in the basement, on a nail right over my pile of seed starting trays and began to plan in my mind: February, I think, toward the middle: parsley and basil and marigolds. Some more lavender. Maybe some more poppies. Some butterfly weed. Some things I haven't thought of yet.

I sorted and packed the tree's finery more carefully this year than I usually do: gold things together, bird ornaments together, fruit and nut ornaments together. I put the paper ornaments my kids made thirty years ago in their special box. I carried the tree out and swept up all the needles. I took the sprigs of evergreen from around all the candles in the living room and put them in the fireplace, took down all the cards from the mantel, packed up the little wooden village Q had when he was a boy, a mixture of houses and people and animals in several different scales: a couple of the horses are as big as some of the houses, and some of the people tower over the bottle-brush trees.

I am always sad when I begin to take down the tree. It grows plainer and plainer as it prepares to meet its end: less gold and red, more green. Each ornament whispers a reminder of its story as it prepares for its yearlong nap, in hopes that I might relent and allow it just a little more time.

But midway through the project, I start to feel happy. The tree begins to show the beauty God gave it. The house feels a little empty without its Christmas finer, but it is a pregnant emptiness: it's a new year, this is a clean new start. Sweep up the needles and put things away neatly. Because things are going to happen this year. And when you're done, take a seed catalogue to bed and dream.
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