What Lies Beneath the Snow

Claudette Sutton - March 3, 2010

Somewhere in the ground, under the foot of snow that still covers our yard, are hundreds of bulbs that Charles and I planted this fall. That at weekend in October, before the trees had lost all their leaves, before we put away the barbecue tongs and rolled up the garden hose, planting daff odils, tulips and grape hyacinths didn’t require a leap of faith. It was just one of those things we do sometimes in the fall, like freezing chile and picking raspberries at the Salman Ranch. Bulbs are kind of a gardener’s savings plan: you put them in the ground, wait several months, and collect the payoff in the spring with compound interest.

That at was before the Winter That Was.

Some years I rush outside with my camera after a big snowfall to take pictures of our house and trees in the snow. This spring, a whole yard of bare ground will be a novelty. Our shady side garden, where I have herbs and fl owers, is dotted with cat prints about halfway in — as far as Misty ventured before turning back for the porch.

Our landscaper-friend Karyn assures me that snow is good for bulbs. It provides an insulating layer of warmth and valuable midwinter drip irrigation. She knows this kind of thing. Still, I wonder if bulbs don’t get the midwinter blues down there, in the dark cold earth. As storm after storm rolls in do they look at one another, roll their eyes and ask, Again?!

With our yard becoming a mishmash of snow, puddles, mud and ice, it’s harder to picture spring now than it was six months ago.

Yet I know humans need a dormant season, too. It’s easy for our peripatetic species to confuse dormancy with stagnation, but there’s something rejuvenating about a pot of lentil stew on a cold night, and fi guring out how to cook all the root vegetables we get in our CSA order in the off season for fruits and salad greens. Winter turns us inward; sometimes our body clocks don’t jibe with our expectations, but there’s comfort in slowing down to suit the weather. Misty huddles closer. Charles spends weekends in the garage on a woodworking project, instead of rushing out fi shing. Even across the ocean, where our son Ariel is in college this year, he huddles closer for family comforts; his latest e-mail asked for “some of those bomb chocolate cookies you make.” (I’m on it!) Tonight, as the setting sun turned the sky pink, I took pictures of our trees and garden in the snow. They won’t look like this forever.

Themes of renewal, rejuvenation and growth run all through this issue of Tumbleweeds. A new contributor, Keri Payne, writes about the recharge her family experiences on a camping trip (and the sweet sanctuary they fi nd back at home). Rev. Talitha Arnold writes about engaging children in appreciation of Creation (with a capital C). Fine Arts for Children and Teens celebrates 20 years of helping children create (lower case; just as vital). Two educators at the Randall Davey Audubon Center coax families out of their cocoons into their great natural resource just on the edge of town. Others write of growing a preschool, growing museums, growing healthy bodies.

Sometime this spring — not today as I’m writing, but sometime — our tulips, hyacinths and daff s will poke green tips through the ground and open into fl owers. Sometime, maybe soon, we’ll emerge from the mud, from cars that look like they just came through the Baja road race, and the warmth of sun on our faces will feel even sweeter for the tunnel we traversed to reach it. People will strut around in short sleeves and goofy smiles like they’ve just discovered something. Spring.