260. The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer. ~Vita Sackville-West

January is the quietest month in the garden.
. . .But just because is looks quiet
doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.
The soil, open to the sky, absorbs the pure rainfall
while microorganisms convert tilled-under fodder
into usable nutrients for the next crop of plants.
The feasting earthworms tunnel along,
aerating the soil and preparing it to welcome
the seeds and bare roots to come.
~Rosalie Muller Wright

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I’ve heard it said that “the color of springtime is in the flowers” whereas “the color of winter is in the imagination.”  Thankfully I’ve got a good imagination, and when that fails, I have a large collection of photos to look back on because by the end of January my spirit is in dire need of a boost.  A place I like to frequent also helps to keep my imagination alive and well.  It’s a nursery, and this particular Dallas nursery not only has a great selection of flowers during the growing seasons, but year round it has all sorts of indoor plants too.  In addition  to the plants it has an oak cabinet with drawers full of fascinating seeds, racks of seed packets, shelves filled with gardening books, and an array of tools.  So between the plant and seed catalogs that start arriving in the mail after Christmas and my visits to Nicholson-Hardie’s nursery, the “dream” is kept alive even when the under-the-surface busy but ravaged-atop January garden appears to be completely shut down.  And it is this “stuff” of which gardener’s dreams are made that keeps my imagination churning and my head full of schemes, schemes that are the spice of a gardener’s life.  What a blessing is our memory, our imagination, and our ability to dream; God is so good.

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.  ~Psalm 69:30  ✝

254. January opens the box of the year and brings out days that are bright and clear and brings out days that are cold and gray and shouts, “Come see what I brought today!” ~Leland B. Jacobs

Is it winter? Is it not?
Is it cold? Is it hot?
The two-headed Janus knows not.

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Where I live unseasonable warming trends often occur in January, and when the month keeps its “box” open-ended long enough, some things in the garden are duped into thinking it’s time to get going.  If the lie that spring is upon us continues on into February, that month as well is made a partner in the deceiving treachery.   Then when the wintry weather falls back into place and worsens, as it nearly always does, the new growth is the innocent victim of the two traitorous libertines.  Such is exactly what happened last year when they were finally exposed as the charlatans they were by a mid-February ice storm.  After weeks of mild weather, frigid rain descended from a whitish cloud cover blown in on arctic winds.  As the temperatures fell from the 70’s and 80’s to well below the freezing mark and everything became encapsulated in tombs of ice, an almost audible death knell sounded.  For days the sun was unable to burn a hole in the clouds, and while the storm’s icy bite endured, the birds who over winter in my yard were, if visible at all, seen only in the mornings.  When they were present, I’d see them huddled close to their birdhouses or in the bay tree or azaleas near the house, but by afternoon they’d have disappeared completely into the day’s dismal gloom.  Neither did I see any of my neighbors nor the squirrels who’d been so busy as of late, and that collective absence of life forms led to a disturbing sense of aloneness that I did not like at all.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by.  Psalm 57:1  ✝

248. I look back with gladness to the day when I found the path to the land of heart’s desire… ~Mrs. George Cran

Earth, thou great footstool of our God,
who reigns on high;
thou fruitful source of all our
raiment, life, and food;
our house, our parent, our nurse,
and our teacher.
~Edited and adapted excerpt from Isaac Watts

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What’s that whisper in the wind?  Do you hear it?  Listen, there it is again!  Oh, I know.  It’s that ancient and seductive call that tempts the gardener to come and play in the dirt?  And it doesn’t take much bidding before this one can do naught but hearken to the bewitching pleas.

For days now I’ve heard the “call” because even though winter is still quite young,  January has obliged the “voice” by bringing some warmer days.  So several days ago I began clearing my flower beds of autumn’s dead, leafy debris, cutting off seed heads to be scattered elsewhere, and pruning weak, leggy growth off shrubs and roses.  Working close to the soil let me, as usual, hear earth’s heartbeat, and that sweet sound in turn spread a soothing balm over the spiritual doldrums.

Ironically, however, it occurred to me as I worked today that I was blessing the warmth of the same sun that only a few months ago I’d been cursing for its relentless waves of miserable heat.  That brought me face to face afresh with the truth that too much of anything spoils even the very best of things, that there is a purpose, if not understanding, in all things, and that gratitude, when in comfort or lack, is the only appropriate response to a day’s gifts.  So, you see, it was more than an ordinary call or faint heartbeat that I’d heard; I’d encountered the Teacher and He, leading me in and out of flesh and spirit, had shown me, again, wisdom growing in the garden’s “soil.”

…and the Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil.  ~Deuteronomy 30:9a  ✝

246. The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life. ~Jean Giraudoux

I am a symbol of love and immortality.
I have been around since the time of Confucius.
My name came from a Persian word.
At one time I was more expensive than precious metals.
I can be used in the place of an onion in cooking.
I am in the same family as a lily.

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Do you know who I am?  I am a native of Central Asia, and I am the world’s most planted flower.  When I arrived from Turkey in the mid-16th century, I was a gift from the Ottoman Empire that took Western Europe by storm.  But I did not come to the United States until the 1800’s.  There are about 3,000 varieties of me grown around the world, some that originated in the seventeenth century.  My petals come in every shade of the rainbow as well as black, but my most popular color is red.  And I can be forced into blooming after I have been stored in a refrigerator for 12-16 weeks.

A tulip doesn’t strive to impress anyone.
It doesn’t struggle to be different than a rose.
It doesn’t have to.
It is different.
And there’s room in the garden for every flower.
~Marianne Williamson

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I’ve never had much luck with growing tulips in the ground.  So this year I decided to try forcing them in containers.  Two weeks ago after the bulbs had spent the required amount of time in my refrigerator, I planted some in soil and some in glass containers partially filled with pebbles and water.  As of today I’m proud to report that I have tulips sprouting in both types of containers.  Though it be only the 12th of January, springtime has sprung at least in my greenhouse.  One of the most seductive things in life I know is the thrill of the first spark of life in a garden.  Every time I experience it I feel as if a time machine has transported me back to Eden on the third day when creation was “born of the Spirit in the womb of the universe.”  On that day the first seeds were planted in the earth and their roots reached down for the waters that would sustain them.  Then and now such as this is clearly a manifestation of the goodness of God.

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  ~Psalm 27:13  ✝

243. A Summer fog for fair, a Winter fog for rain. ~Weather Lore prediction

Oh fog! Oh fog!
What can I say?
You’ve painted the day
A thick shade of grey.
~Adapted excerpt from a poem by Andrew D. Robertson

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A textbook definition of fog is that it is a collection of water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at or near the Earth’s surface–a cloud of sorts, as it were.  Since it wasn’t cold enough last night for this one to have been formed from ice crystals, it had to have been from the little bit of misting rain we got yesterday.  Thus, the only strange thing is that I’ve never seen a fog of either kind come so early or last as long as this one has, at least here in north central Texas.  And the somewhat dense fog not only wrapped its arms around the morning, but it has also kept us held tightly in its embrace all day long.  Furthermore, as darkness closed in on us, it still hadn’t lifted.

The fog is an illusion–
A master of disguise;
Which hides the tangible
Before our very eyes.

It gives an air of mystery
That has long prevailed.
Dangerously intriguing
Is the fog’s foggy veil.
~Excerpts from a poem by W. Salley

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In the silence of its thick haze this strange January fog has been reducing visibility and cloaking our city and the outlying areas in its mysterious veil of shyness since first light.  In grayness not unlike a pigeon’s feather, it has literally held our world close to the ground all day long, coating all the eyes could see.  And lying heavy on all that it encompassed, it kept the sun pushed back which sheltered the earth, smothered most of the day’s colors, and blurred everything as it clung to all possible shapes it could find.

Foggy mist, misty fog
Marvelous manifestation
Of magnificent nature!
~N. Subbarman

The fog descends
in the wee hours of dawn
like a sacred thing.
~John Tiong Chunghoo

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Like most weather events, fog is often seen as some kind of spiritual force as it creeps along the ground and across the sky.  Actually there seems to be something about all weather phenomena that lends itself to perceptions of sanctity.  Perhaps tis so because all such events fall from the heavens overhead or, like the fog, are a part of earth’s mysterious beneath-the-surface workings.  And because they are beyond our control, we feel helpless to stop them and sometimes lives as well as homes are lost in the wake of the more forceful ones.  Genesis tells us that a mighty wind swept over the waters as God set about the business of Creation, and in His hands He held the elements of earth, air, fire, and water.  As He cast them out upon the wind, they were carried throughout the universe on its wild wings.  How could one not stand in awe and consider sacred such immense and mysterious powers!

In the beginning when God created the heavens and earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Genesis 1:1  ✝