“For You, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits . . .” as my garden sleeps under snow fallen only yesterday. Not much, just enough to cover lawns and junipers and bare branches of birches, their bark already white and peeling bits of nature’s poems. My little dog gawped through the opened library door to the courtyard, then pranced out to frolic in the stuff, again and again.
This morning the sky is cerulean, sun bright. Christmas is two days hence. With temps climbing, the snow will not wait, but melt into the ground. We’ll have a deep South kind of Christmas this year while the Deep South itself was buried. Perhaps January will bring more? We’ll see.
Nonetheless, this year’s winter garden retains its own charms — bare branches stretching against blue heavens, as they do today, or a grey leaden dome leaking drizzles of light rain. The Colorado spruce and Mugo pines glisten. Chickadees and buntings sweep down from the Cascade foothills and finish off the dogwood berries. They ignore dried rose hips for now, instead flock to the gazebo bird feeder we try to keep filled with mixed bird seed. Dried perennials sway in a whisper of breeze, drop their own seed to sprout again come spring.
In an earlier post, I talked about bringing the garden indoors for winter, especially the geraniums and ferns, and harvesting herbs to dry on screens laid out on kitchen counters. In December, I send my husband out, armed with red clippers I gave him one Christmas, to gather evergreen branches to bring inside, first for the Advent wreath on the dining table, later for filling blue and white planters. I then add birch twigs and faux berries indistinguishable from fresh ones that make a mess when they dry and fall onto the floor. Every year I bring out the pine cones we used to gather from the woods when the children were little, and arrange them in the clipped greenery. Sometimes I insert juniper pieces among the Christmas tree branches to fill out gaps, and line the window sills with spruce and pine cones.
This year I decided to retain my autumn arrangements of dried materials from the garden and simply add snippets of spruce or juniper, a couple of small Ponderosa pine cones, an extra gold ball or two left over from tree decorations. Lack of early snow inspired me, especially since I was loathe to relinquish a long beautiful autumn season. Instead of red plaid ribbons and bows, I created an olive green and gold effect for the garland on the mantel and the wreath on the wall, reflected on the tree in front of the bay window. However, I succumbed to the traditional red plaid for outdoor wreaths and garlands in the front of the house because it shows up better from the street, and on the courtyard sconces and lamp posts. The birds don’t notice.
In the South, gardeners with magnolias gather fallen leaves turned brown and combine them with fresh green ones for wreaths and mantel arrangements. This month “The Enchanted Home” blog and the December issues of both The Cottage Journal and Victoria magazines feature this idea. Is this a new trend? Interesting, but not really my style. I prefer Florida oranges nestled in a silver bowl of juniper and pine clipping and set on the kitchen table, while a mince pie bakes in the oven.
This year, in spite of a three-week Advent season — or, perhaps, because of it? — I have experienced the most relaxed, non-rushed December of my life, beginning with a lovely Thanksgiving week without feeling any urgency to “get on with it.” The Christmas cake I baked on Stir-Up Sunday is resting, wrapped in an old linen kitchen towel, growing more pungent. I planned my preparations, step by step, week by week, and tried not to succumb too much to snuggling under a plaid blanket on those dreary grey days. Now, my house waits in readiness for the high point of my year. My soul in stillness waits.
The blessing of peace to you wherever you are!