For the smallest month on the calendar, February looms large in my mind. It is, on the East Coast anyway, the deepest, darkest, bitterest part of winter. The Scandinavian side of me, wise to seasonal depression long before there was a named disorder for it, wants to stay in and drink glogg and distract myself from putting my head in the oven. I count down the days until pitchers and catchers report, so I can imagine them playing on warm green fields in spring training. I plan trips to deserts or beaches or anyplace more equatorial than New York. But the real “go to” diversion for me, and thousands of others like me, is the seed and garden catalogs that conveniently start arriving at the end of January.
I look at the pictures of seeds and the resulting full, verdant plants, and I am transported to Spring and Summer – to the future, a place of lush warmth and beauty. Most years I picture the garden beds around the house, speculate where I can fit in new seeds or plants, and walk through the growing season in my head, week by week, imagining what will fit where after it’s grown to full size. Like a business, I project future growth and predict what needs to be pruned and what will yield dividends, like the perennials that I have been dividing and getting free plants from for over twenty years.
This year is different, as I prepare to put our home on the market. The last time I sold a house I had it written into the contract that I could return in the Spring and divide and re-claim perennials that had been in my family for over fifty years. This time I really don’t know where I will end up and I am prepared to leave them behind. This year I walk the gardens in my mind, silently saying goodbye and thank you to the plants, berries, and flowers that have fed me, (and the birds and deer), and given me so much pleasure. I hope that the future buyers will appreciate them, too.
This February I will not order anything from the catalogs, but I will still plant the seeds of the future. I imagine a room with sunlight streaming through big windows and a plant stand with wheels, like a two tier glass tea cart, loaded with houseplants. I recognize some of the plants as old friends that I’ve had for years. I see my cats resting in a patch of sun, looking out at a deck that includes pots of cherry tomatoes and basil. There are boxes of flowers alongside a patio set, and I note that the cats are watching the birdfeeder out there like it’s a big screen TV.
I see all of these details in my mind’s eye, and I know that they will grow and take on life as I get closer to building this future that I desire. The will to imagine guides the choices that I make — there’s no new age magic, no “secret” – just a belief that I can choose from life’s catalog to create and grow, sometimes literally from the ground up, exactly what I want. And that is what gets me through this long winter.