One gardener's observations, discoveries and random thoughts whilst simultaneously worshipping and dallying in a Cape Cod garden. "A garden," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coatskirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg and his whole body to irresistable destruction."

Comfort and Joy

So this is Christmas.   December, anyway.   Except for the snow here at WordPress (no, it’s not some funky ailment effecting your vision…), you’d almost never know.  At least it’s been tricky knowing it here on Cape Cod, where we still await our first serious frost at this end of the year.

Last weekend I scanned Facebook (Are we Facebook friends?  Shouldn’t we be?) and saw reports of snowfall in Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia and Alabama (!!!!), and then looked out my own window onto the deck, where it was fifty degrees and – just last week – a bachelor button had opened up to say “blue.”

So feeling like the holiday season is upon us has felt like a bit of a challenge…and for plenty more reasons than just the weather and the continued blooming of summer annuals.

Some years I can barely wait for Halloween to be done before I break out the seasonal music (Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas is sort of a gateway soundtrack, there, actually.) and want to start festooning things with lights of all sizes and colors, winding pretty ribbons around plant hangers and curtain rods and picture frames and generally skipping around flinging Christmas glitter at people.  (Ok.  That’s not entirely true.  I usually don’t leap headlong into decorating until December begins.)

Anyway, I haven’t been feeling so much like the holiday fairy just yet this season.  Instead, I’ve found myself looking entirely too seriously at life and pondering how the year between Christmas and Christmas can bring so many changes, so many moments completely unanticipated to one’s life, some happy, some sad, and so many moments not one or the other, just there and gone.

I find myself musing about how we can arrive at the start of the holiday season with the realization that someone we’ve celebrated with in the past will no longer be there to join us in the annual revels for one reason or another.  And before you know it, I’m awash in memories of grandparents and other family and long-lost friends and Nutcracker princes and fellows under mistletoe and…

Well, fortunately, before I ruminated on all that TOO deeply, I realized at the heart of this sort of  morose line of thinking was my feeling – maybe even mistakenly – like I’m a little bereft of traditions.   I changed much in my life these last two years and in that process, many of the Christmas traditions I’d developed over the last ten years before that have simply gone out the window.

Some of those weren’t great traditions, so change isn’t bad, per se, when we can convince ourselves to embrace it.  But there are plenty of things (and a dog…) which I do miss.  My cat buddy and I are making our own traditions, naturally, at least so far in some of the ways we deck the halls at the Nest, as you’ve seen a glimpse of in my last post.  Of course, I’ve embraced old traditions anew – spending the holidays with the Family, which is always a treat – but even that’s different these days than it ever was.     Years go by.  Things just change.

And new traditions are right around every corner.   I was glad to be able to talk myself out from in front of the computer (and from beneath Monsieur LeChat) and on out into the world to do something recently.

This past weekend was the annual  Holly Folly festivities in Provincetown, one of those festival weekends designed to bring more folks into town.   The schedule is populated with all kinds of fun events and activities and I’ve often thought it’d be fun to spend the whole weekend in town, fan of Christmas that I am.  That’s hardly practical living just a little way up the road, though, and the earlier part of the weekend was full with both work and bad weather.

But Sunday night was crisp and clear,  and at 37 degrees,  the closest we’ve seen to seasonal temperatures.  So I loaded up the camera and tripod, and bundled up for a wintertime visit to Provincetown to soak up some holiday spirit from the decorations and pretty lights.  The Pilgrim Monument is dressed in her finest holiday drag.   And, the last event on the weekend schedule was Classic Disco Night at the Atlantic House, which I figured was the perfect cure for what ailed me.  I wasn’t disappointed.

The lights and decorations were just terrific and I’ll share more of those in another post very soon.  And then, I got on up on the floor and then I boogie-oogie-oogied ’til I just couldn’t boogie no more.   Which actually isn’t exactly true.  I could’ve boogied a few hours longer than they kept the place open, but with half an hour’s drive home awaiting me, it was likely a blessing in disguise that last call is as early as it is (1:00 a.m.)  here in the Commonwealth.

And it’s funny how the old traditions sneak back in when one’s not looking, or perhaps never left.   Somewhere, my Mom has a collage of about twenty or so photos of me taken over the years with Santa, ranging pretty much from birth on through college.   Sunday, I collected one more photo for that display, when I met the lovely (well, holiday spirited, anyway) Chi-chi Claus, who claims to be Santa’s Mistress.

And so I found a bit of the holiday spirit and danced away a few demons.  An evening of timeless tunes helped to bridge the years in my mind and provide some much needed perspective about the way Life just goes on and on, one minute collected after the next, beautiful beside sad, savory next to sweet.   Little enough of it turns out to offer much in the way of real meaning.   So why not spend a few more of those minutes dancing?

Of course, I also spent a few more minutes the following morning lounging about snoozing, which was especially sweet since Sir Purrs-alot is so rarely on-board with the idea of my sleeping in.    Still, that was relatively short-lived, too, since I had some designs on a bit of gardening to continue wrapping things up for the season, especially if the weather is finally going to take a turn for the wintery.

The mums and coneflowers and daisies and such had all finally given up the ghost and died back, so they needed to be cut back.   As you can see, the allyssum is still drifting as though it were standing in for the light snowfall we have often seen by this part of the year.   And the flowering kale has come properly into its own without a frost to slow it.

Seedlings for next year’s honesty (moneyplant) are filling in everywhere, and the snapdragons are growing more steadily close to reblooming with each day.  There’s also a blue primrose blooming, as it remembers the schedule it was forced into for grocery store sales last January.

In addition to that bit of general maintenance, there was also more planting to be done.   With no frost, our ground is still loose and easily planted.  Just before Thanksgiving, I’d stumbled across some inexpensive nursery stock bulbs and bagged up a few golden crocuses and grape hyacinths to fill out the most-recently refurbished garden bed.    I’d also received a few iris roots from the Baltimore area who needed to get situated in some soil (thanks, Lil!).

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Downstairses received an early Christmas gift from some friends, which provided me with a little more to plant, and just when I was thinking about seeking out some more daffodils, too.

I wanted to share this, because – if you know a gardener who lives in an area like ours, where the ground is not yet hardened with frost, this can be a terrific holiday gift.   (I’m not hinting.  Or am I?)   An inexpensive decorative tin bucket is filled with nice-sized daffodil bulbs (you can buy them in pretty large quantities at good nurseries), accompanying the bulbs was a small package of bulb fertilizer/bone meal to be dug in with the bulbs, as well as simple planting instructions.

All of these bulbs will bring some earlier life to a bed which previously wasn’t really doing much of anything until it was time for the iris to begin blooming, so the show there in the spring should be fun.   You can see below how nicely everything’s growing after the recent renovation.

I’m sure I’m not alone in my feelings of uncertainty about the holiday season.   I’m sure a few of you wouldn’t have anything good to say about it.  The whole business can get a little overloaded with sentimentality and trying to hard to make things somehow perfect.   It can all get to be a little much sometimes, especially if you let the commercialism of the season overwhelm the feelings of good will this time of year can also inspire.

I wish you a happy December, full of fond old memories and new surprise pleasures and unexpected treats.  And as always, I wish you peace.


Comments on: "Comfort and Joy" (5)

  1. Looking forward to seeing more Christmas Pictures
    of PTOWN.

    Happy Holidays to you.

  2. amazing! we’re at the tail end of an early december cold snap with temperatures in the low -20s and -30s (celcius not farenheit) and windchills of revoltingly cold varieties. seeing flowers that are still blooming and not in a tropical zone is a refreshing treat.

  3. Even if melancholia has paid you a few visits recently, it’s encouraging to see that your natural tendency towards health has not abandoned you. Nothing like dancing to dispell some demons, as you say, unless it’s working in the garden. As freaky as the weather has been, it’s nice you’ve been able to keep planting things and appreciating blooms so late in the year. Like you I’m looking forward to some real snow (though if it can hold off until I’m in Indiana, that would be swell), but visiting the Midnight Garden has been an extended pleasure this season.
    Merry Christmas, Greg.

    Thanks, pal: the merriest of Christmases to you, too.

  4. Yeah, I’m having some trouble with this Christmas Spirit thing. It ain’t here.

    I like that you went out dancing. That sounds like just the thing. And like Patrick, I’m ever in awe of your tendency to do the healthy thing.

    Merry Christmas, dear friend.

  5. Christmas is always tough for me. Dancing sounds like a good move. Ha ha.

    Merry, happy, cheerful Christmas

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