The outside air is brisk this morning. It is 25 degrees Fahrenheit and the temperature will be going down to the teens tonight. Still, the sun shines brightly today with no clouds in sight. I’d like to say the scent of the air in my writing space is as sweet as this sunny morning by the sea, but it is not. I have a lemon yellow candle burning on my writing table to overwhelm the fragrance of my paperwhites, which are in glorious display right here in front of me. These were a welcomed gift from friends, which make their blooming all the sweeter. The strong scent of narcissus (aka paperwhites) does not match the delicate beauty of their miniature white blossoms. When gazing upon them, one expects a delicately nuanced floral perfume, but pungent better describes their presence. It’s hard to describe their scent, a mix between mothballs and prairie scrub cedar, but paperwhites are totally worth putting up with for a few weeks. These are fast growing, one of the easiest flower bulbs to force indoors. Paperwhites are here today blooming brightly and then gone for good. Which may be why they are also called narcissus. I’ve literally watched generations of these flowers surprisingly sprout up from bulbs stuck in the rocky bottom of a shallow pot.
Gardening soothes my soul year-round. It’s both contemplative and active. In the summer, I am outdoors tending to perennial flower and native grass gardens. In the wintertime, I transform my dining/writing room into a simple little greenhouse. The sunlight is blinding this time of year as it moves through the south-facing rooms of the house for most of these short days. Since the sun is riding lower across the sky, sunlight pours in under the overhanging eaves of the house. I like the bright light. Our kitty cats take the lead and bask in the warm sunshine most early mornings. I do too when I can, with Dr. Chris’ blessing of course, as we all need more vitamin D this time of year.
So this is the sacred space from which I write as First Light arrives onto Maine’s shores each morning. I garden outdoors in the summertime, but as each autumn arrives, I bring my freshly scrubbed ceramic birdbath indoors and place it next to the baseboard heater in the dining room. I also re-pot my window box flowers, ferns, succulents, and herbs, bringing them indoors before the first frost. Once a week throughout the winter, I regularly water the plants and fill two big bowls with water to raise the humidity in the kitchen bay window and in my dining room.
My quietly simple work is rewarded when bright green buds and showy blossoms appear as if by magic from November through May. I’ve never used plant food, though I’m thinking about it this year. Geraniums, orchids, paperwhites, amaryllis, various succulents, ferns, and herbs become my contemplative companions as the landscape outdoors turns from crunchy brown to frosty white. As the winter light progresses toward spring, the deepening snow on the other side of my window glass makes for a bright contrast to the continual rebirthing of my favorite window box flowers. To everything there is a season, indeed.
A new day is dawning here in Maine. This evening, Janet Mills will be inaugurated as Governor of Maine. She is the first woman to be elected to lead the state of Maine. That unto itself is a bit surprising to me, as women have always been strong up here. Even Kansas has had two fine female governors. A bi-partisan majority of concerned citizens just elected their third woman to serve as Governor of Kansas. (We all long for the distant day when our gender doesn’t have to be included as a modifier.)
For many of us in Maine, we continue to hope for some moderation in all things, we long for a break in divisive political rhetoric. Some narcissus just can’t be forced to blossom, or when they do they don’t smell like we hoped they would. In this new year, perhaps kinder and gentler will make a comeback. We can only hope. As goes Maine, so goes the nation.
For further reading:
How to force paperwhites