The many moods of the garden

Our garden is still silent, with a few remaining patches of snow. The callas we didn't cut back before the snow now look like stringy sea anemones. Many limbs struggled under the snow and are attempting to find new strength to find their caliper. The garden was stressed and now has begun its rest. The garden's spirit must feel relief to be have weathered the storm and now to be unencumbered by having to force new leaves and blooms. The garden is rooted to the earth and being fortified by microorganisms. It stands strong but looks quiet.

Often I take on the mood of the garden. In the spring when fireworks of color begin, I take on its exuberance and try to outdo myself with activities and plans. I'm on the move in life and in the garden, trying to wedge in just one more activity. As summer's long hours tarry into the late evening, I try to prolong the life of the garden and push myself to new limits with summer activities. Berries to pick. Jam to make. Gardening to complete. Friends to see. Tennis to play. Stories to write.

And then comes gentle autumn. Even the sound of the word autumn swishes around in my mouth the way good merlot tickles my tongue. The resting begins and the glorious colors camouflage that decay is escalating. Days shorten and so does my need to push myself so mightily. My down comforter becomes more of a companion. Lying on the couch with a book and a cup of tea soothes my body that has rushed too fast through spring and summer.

How kind that a decaying garden can give such permission to relax, to forget about calloused and oft-pricked fingers, to curtail daily usage of my pruners, to quiet my thoughts about absolute have-to's in life and in my garden. I can hunker down and read an entire book in a day. Then read another book the next day. Oliver Goldsmith said, "Silence gives consent."

In this season of rest, I take time to look at the garden and to see the backbones of strength in the garden - evergreens, silhouetted trees and sprawling shrubs. I mentally assess which plants will need to be moved come spring.

The garden is quiet and gives me a breather after the full panoply of Christmas with a white background of severe and ever-changing weather. Silence lets me concentrate on the flight of an eagle rather than on the bird song of the robin; it invites me to enter the diminished rather than the rich abundance; it quiets me to consider philosophical questions rather than the nitty-gritty of daily gardening.

In autumn, we can walk with velvet shoes on dewy ground, where silvery silence directs us in renewing our spirits. As the garden begins its work to succumb to death in winter's freeze, we, too, metamorphose, recognizing that new life, a resurrection, will shake us and awaken us in the spring.

Bev Hoffman's Sequim Gazette column appears the first Wednesday of each month. She can be reached via e-mail at

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