Friday, December 7, 2012

We’ve got mail!

I've actually been stopping at the mailbox after work lately, which means only one thing—Christmas card season! I absolutely hate getting the mail. There's never anything good in there . . . except during one glorious month around Christmas. From the time the first card arrives, I'm excited to get the mail every day. And because I know there are some well-intentioned but less-than-organized people out there like me, I usually remain hopeful well into January that some rogue holiday greetings are still on their way.

I have loved Christmas cards as long as I can remember because they were one of my favorite traditions as a kid. Mom had this long piece of thick, soft red yarn. I can remember exactly the way it felt—with its individual strands twisted loosely around and around—as if it was sitting right here in front of me. Along with the yarn were little white paper hangers. We would hang the yarn up on the back side of the cupboards, facing the living room, and keep the pile of hangers handy. Every time a card came in, we would give it a little hanger and string it up on the yarn. By the time Christmas came around, we had a beautiful, eclectic, brightly colored banner of cards from all our friends and family. Even as a kid, I'd like to believe I knew that's what Christmas is about: reaching out, getting in touch, catching up, and connecting with the people you care about. And cookies. Don't forget the cookies.

Back then they really were cards. Now most of them are photo cards, and I love seeing all our friends and family and remarking, like the old person I swore I'd never be, how big the kids look. Getting a letter or a hand-written card is an even bigger treat. I'm a sucker for a letter. For some reason, Christmas has become a time when we put our whole year onto one page (or two or three—page limits were never really my thing), and I love reading these snapshots of people's lives. The highs and lows—for a few precious minutes you ride the roller coaster with them. And sometimes, if you happen to pull out last year's letters when you're getting out the Christmas decorations this year, you ride it all over again, but sometimes in very different ways. Those letters can be one of the most concrete reminders of how much can change over a year. They're a reminder to be thankful for whatever you have this year and to reach out to those around you, even if it's not as often as you'd like. Christmas is your excuse.

So keep those cards and letters and too-cute pictures coming, and we'll do the same—even if it's not until January.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy New (Gardening) Year!

Today is one of my favorite days of winter—seed ordering day! Yesterday, while the Boyfriend was waxing his snowboard and doing very winter-like things, I hung out with him in the garage and pulled out my tub of seeds to take stock of what we had, what we needed, and what we could probably toss. It felt good just to hold all the seed packets in my hands and feel the seeds through the paper. It felt good to lose myself in thoughts of spring and green things. Each packet has a story or a memory—the tomato seeds I bought to grow for Mom's mother's day present, the green beans that didn't produce until October, the Siletz tomato seeds that have been with me since the Mini. I organized all the packets in a way that probably only made sense to me and would make any horticulturist or true gardener cringe.

Armed with my current inventory list, I sat down this morning with the seed catalog, which of course I had already perused and marked up, and decided what to order. I'm sure I ordered more than we need, but it's so hard to narrow it down. Here's the final order:

We're probably not doing melons or corn this year. After a couple disappointing years with both, we're going to give the space to something else this year. We're doing more beans, carrots, and squash. I'm also going to do more herbs since they dried so nicely in the food dehydrator last year. The flavor of our dried oregano doesn't even compare to what you buy in the store. I also want to grow dill this year, although I'm a bit nervous since I've been told it spreads like wildfire. However, with homegrown dill, Mom and I can probably make our pickles with almost all homegrown vegetables this year since I do garlic and we both do onions (her more successfully than me).

The logical part of me knows that spring is so very far away, but seed ordering day always makes me feel like we've turned the corner. When the seeds come in, I'll start some seeds indoors, invariably much too early, and start the weekly countdown to the average last frost date. I'll kill lots of seedlings and probably set my beautiful tomato starts outside much too early, forget about them some chilly night, and kill them, all just to start the process over again the next day, undeterred by how bad I apparently am at this seed starting thing. That's the miracle of it all: the hope and promise and potential that come with spring and each of those tiny little seeds is absolutely indestructible.