It’s taken awhile, but I managed to do one of my favorite February activities today.
I picked up a mini-greenhouse kit and some seed packets, got my kids around the table, and helped them do some pre-season gardening.
We poured water over little packed dirt pellets, watched them swell, and pushed those seeds into the soil. After a few days sitting on top of my (very dusty) refrigerator, we’ll see tiny stalks pushing up to find the light. Then, the greenhouse will live beneath a fluorescent light I’ve tied to the bottom side of a bookshelf, where they’ll stay until a season we can scarcely wait to see.
I’m certainly no gardener, so I’m not sure what prompted me to start this little ritual. I’ll never forget the unexpected comfort it brought. That it brings today.
Tonight, as we open the packets of colorful zinnias, stately sunflowers, tangy peppers, and crisp cucumbers, I’m struck by the look of the seeds. Some pale and anemic-looking, others brown and sharp-edged (nearly indistinguishable from the dirt itself), each kernel bears almost no resemblance to the beauty it is capable of producing.
Adding insult to injury, we take them from their pretty, decorated packets. We separate them from one another and plunge each seed, lonely, into dark, wet, smelly soil.
When we’re done, it looks as if we’ve dug 70 little graves for these 70 little seeds.
It’s almost a burial, this planting time.
This time of year, I often feel well-wrapped—or, more truthfully, trapped—in a malaise that mirrors this damp, dreary season. There are some days when I find it near-impossible to taste joy or to savor beauty.
But today, just when I’m beginning to wonder whether I’ll ever make it to the end of winter’s clouds, my hands in the dirt are a declaration of sorts.
These little tombs are the beginning of a transformation. A painful prerequisite to beauty that is to come.
That will come.