Monday, October 17, 2011

The Rooting Season

I never know what to make of a season, or for that matter, a time in my life. Years from now I'll remember moments only by vague notions, switchbacks and curvy roads, metaphor and insinuation, a moment of displaced memory mixed with some present sensation that takes me back and replaces time, giving deeper meaning. I shift, multidimensional. You know what I mean--how the juniper scent takes you back to your grandparent's apartment, or the taste of cinnamon on your tongue to a Sunday morning, or the way the wind lifts the leaves high enough to cross the sun and eclipse your vision for a second and you are twelve again.

The only reliable constant is motion. The universe is expanding as our experiences are, our sensations, and when we stop having those experiences, whether by choice or circumstance, we falter. I think this faltering tends to happen a lot in winter, but it doesn't have to. Growing up in Minnesota people had no choice but to go outside to maintain their sanity, becoming a more winter hardy folk (or doing a good job of pretending). Of course, plenty stay holed up inside until April. But you can't do that.

I look at the garden and walk it everyday. I will ride down this week like a nurse or loved one at bedside as the hard freeze comes. We'll have the wind knocked out of us, but we won't die. Thankfully there is rest. And I can guarantee myself, and you, that life is so fast, that so much happens, that it will seem like only yesterday that is was fall and the first hard freeze occurred. I won't even remember the date. It is October, but it might as well be March and the green is just coming up from the mulch, and in disbelief I think it's moss or mold.  But the only way that will happen is if I live and don't brood, don't become frozen in nostalgia. It may be easy for someone who's 35 to say that, though.

I'm not too worried about winter. I'll take the time I need to hunker down and shift my energies to my roots (writing, reading, hopefully job interviews), just as the perennials are set to do now. I know we are connected, intertwined, if not physically then in something much more real and tenable--time is nothing. Get out there in the coming cold and smell the goldenrod once more, how it reminds you of your grandmother's perfume. Gather the fragrant mountain mint and put a clump on your desk. Dig your numb fingers into the still-warm soil and know your home, yourself, even more. This is your ceremony, touching the roots and the microbes, gathering and storing the nutrients of memory that will feed you well into next spring.


catharine Howard said...

I attended my first writing workshop ever this past weekend and was invited to delve into memory, found it a rusty and then flowing exercise. Responded with alacrity therefore to your idea of memory mizing with the present. Love the idea of nutrients thereof.

Susan in the Pink Hat said...

Sounds like you need more evergreens in your garden to draw you out of your winter hibernation.

Donna said...

Been thinking about winter plans as well. Once that first freeze hits my time is limited in the garden though I am determined to garden every day I can even if it is just maintenance. Walking about and observing the garden helps as well as getting out in nature in winter especially with snow shoeing. But the reading and writing will be a main focus. I also am going to garden indoors with a seed starting cart...I experimented with greens last Feb/March and loved it so I plan to grow greens and herbs and see what success I have...none of this will replace the actual garden but hope it helps...your post resonated so much with me can you tel!!

Kylee Baumle said...

Love, love, LOVE this. I get it. You get it. This just speaks to the heart of a northern gardener in a way that only a northern gardener understands. I REALLY love this.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Catharine--when I teach writing, especially memoir, I find there is much rust (having mostly do with the unfamiliarity of being creative and honest), so I have us focus on an image, something specific. I have an old pair of shoes I'll never throw away, and when I smell them I know right where and when I am--England, 1997, a rocky path through a wood.
Susan--We do have a tall line of invasive red cedars along the back fence. But I am a tall perennial guy, and lots of structure even in winter, which means lots of birds.
Donna--I'm so happy it resonated with you! Victory! I tried starting milkweed last year, but I didn't have the right set up for strong plants. I don't if I'll try again--it seems too involved.
Kylee--Oh yes yes! I can't believe it's a hard freeze three nights in a row here without a frost first. I never got to use my blankets. I may take "death" photos this week. And re my post, I've been trying to think of ways to possible extend my book, since many say it's too short, so that was partly and attempt (but oh a lamenting).