I hesitate to write about the grueling winter, but it may be the only way forward for me, out of the paralysis I feel waking to leaden skies and polar temperatures. Every day of relentless cold, ice, snow – is depressing to the point of being debilitating, and I am curling farther into myself, physically, mentally and spiritually. I feel pinched – as if I am collapsing into my chest. I force myself to breathe deeply, shoulders back, stretch. Nothing to be done but carry on, feed the birds, cook, read and mark the days inching towards spring. February, at least, is a short month and the seed catalogues arrive almost daily.
The plows have piled more than 5 feet of snow on top of my strawberry plants – it’s hard to imagine they will survive – but they will and so will the purple sage and all the spring bulbs that bravely push through the last of the frosts. I try and always have a hyacinth or bunch of daffodils on the table as a fragrant reminder for what’s just around the corner. Really. And just for fun, I will inevitably over-order seeds to sow directly in only a few more months and maybe pre-order some heirloom tomato plant collections. The best seed deals and choices I’ve found are Pinetree Seeds of Vermont and Select Seeds from Connecticut. While sometimes I am enticed by catalogues from Wisconsin or Oregon, it just seems to make sense to get seeds for my Connecticut garden from New England.
I cook. A recent favorite is a recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, The Wednesday Chef: Zuni Cafe’s Chard and Onion Panade. It’s comfort food extraordinaire. I erred on the side of lots of stock but would use less next time in the hopes that the consistency wouldn’t be quite so soupy. And maybe add a little wine? Definitely more greens rather than less. Yum.
Also whipping through books. David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, while exquisite reading was at first a little slow for me but is now a page turner and I’ll certainly finish this weekend. After reading last Sunday’s sobering review of memoirs in the New York Times Book Review, (“The Center of Attention: Taking stock of four new memoirs – and of the motives for adding to an already crowded genre.”) I read the title reviewer Neil Genzlinger did not pan: An Exclusive Love by Johanna Adorjan and agree with him. It’s beautiful. The author’s poignant exploration of her grandparents joint suicide is like watching a riveting Bergman film — vividly drawn scenes and characters. No surprise the author has written for theater. I was drawn to this, of course, because of the suicide – but while the suicide is certainly a theme driving the story and the damage-done apparent in the author being haunted enough to pursue her questions (it is the questions we survivors are left with), ultimately it is a beautiful love story. And we know the author/survivor, has found her peace.
Genzlinger writes at the end of his memoir reviews: “…what makes a good memoir – it’s not a regurgitation of ordinariness or ordeal, not a dart thrown desperately at a trendy topic, but a shared discovery. Maybe that’s a good rule of thumb: If you didn’t feel you were discovering something as you wrote your memoir, don’t publish it. Instead hit the delete key, and then go congratulate yourself for having lived a perfectly good, undistinguished life. There’s no shame in that.” I’ve re-read this a few times over the past week – a challenge to myself. I did not hit delete. It’s just a long, cold, winter – but spring is on the way.