Sunday, April 20, 2014

On the Cusp of New Life

New life. Renewal. Liberation. Spend some time in the springtime woods and you'll understand why our religions tell stories of resurrection and freedom at this time of year.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Embracing a New Season in the Garden

I woke up last week with the realization that I had less than three months until hundreds of visitors will stream through my garden. Since that wake up call, I've seen the garden through the singular lens of what needs to be done before June 21.

Clean up.




The list seems endless and paints my garden with the broad strokes of what it needs to be, rather than what it offers in the present.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Spring, Come It Will

Garden bench in snow

It snowed yesterday. Again. Not too far removed from one of the driest years on record, some towns in central Illinois have set all-time records for winter snowfall and we're still five weeks away from the official end of the season. Gone are warm, sentimental smiles as folks see flakes falling. They've been replaced by rolling eyes and frustrated sighs. No one is looking forward to another day of sliding around town as biting winds nip our faces. Jack Frost, you're far from most wanted in these parts.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Being Mindful in the Garden

Rosa Knock Out® 'Double Red'
There's a little lie we northern gardeners tell ourselves in the middle of winter, a mantra we chant through frigid lips.

We like the break that winter affords us, turning cold, snowy days into opportunities to assess past performance and dream of future blooms. When else would we have time to pour over garden catalogs?

But the second the air teases of spring, we cast our winter diversions aside and rush to see those first green tips breaking through the soil. We spend the winter craving spring, living for a future instead of being mindful in the present.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Why Do I Garden?

Why do I garden?

That's one of the questions people will ask when my passion for growing eventually -- okay, instantly -- finds its way into conversation.

Sometimes the query lives in the raised eyebrow of a new acquaintance. My 40-something information technology professional countenance doesn't often jibe with the societal picture of typical gardener.

Yet, I am a gardener -- a gardener to whom the question "why do I garden?" seems almost rhetorical. The question is akin to asking myself, "Why do I breathe?"

They have the same answer: Because I do. To completely reverse the Cartesian notion of existence, I am, therefore I garden.

But forcing my questioners to chew on such hollow philosophy leaves me as the host that serves little more than appetizers to famished dinner guests. For those of you who I've left unsatisfied, and others that wish to pull up a chair, here's the answer.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Drifting in the Garden

Picea glauca 'Conica' We went to bed last night thankful for a warm house. The inches of snow rose as the thermometer fell throughout the day. It was hard to measure the snowfall because of intense drifting, but the thermometer gave us a chilling number. When we put our heads on our pillows, it was 45 degrees colder than when we woke that morning.

The wind's steady howls were punctuated by violent puffs that roared across our roof. Light, icy snow scattered in all directions with each gust. Eddies and dunes formed at the wind's whimsy, creating a new edgeless topography in the neighborhood.

The sun rose through the icy air of a -15F degree morning, creating a giant sundog in the eastern sky. I didn't see it first hand, but am enjoying one in the western sky as I write this post.

The photographer in me ignored the warnings of severe wind chills to grab a few shots of the garden.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Sunny Winter Day in the Garden

Garden 2014-01-04
I sit here with the patio garden in my peripheral vision as it vanishes beneath a rising tide of drifting snow. A front of frigid air is slowly pushing a storm system across the Midwest. Since I woke this morning, we've lost 20 degrees and the forecast calls for another 30 degree drop before tomorrow morning. Truly dangerous kinds of cold, for animals and plants alike.

It's the type of day that beckons a blanket, hot coffee and a good book, or perhaps some daydreaming about a garden that will break its dormancy in due time.

The garden lacks dimension today. Winter's frozen pall has hidden the depth and texture that just a day ago drew me outside. Melting snow compressed with each footstep and glistened as the thermometer rose above freezing. Remnants of last season's garden poked through the snow, moved by a light breeze. The winter sun arches low in the southern sky, so even at midday the dried stems and leaves were illuminated from the side and threw long, dancing shadows across a white canvas.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Captured by a Snapshot

Meadowbrook Park 2014-01-01
I've spent much of my holiday break inside, rendered sedentary by a renewed appetite for fiction combined with a general case of the motivational doldrums. When I woke this morning to a thick overcast New Year's sky, the cabin fever that's been building in me the last few days felt oppressive. 

A lunchtime run chased away some of the fog and lethargy, but I knew I needed to breathe more than the air of suburbia to brush away the remaining cobwebs. So I set out to hike Meadowbrook Park in Urbana.

All of our pre-holiday snow has melted, so I didn't expect much in the way of lens fodder beyond tree silhouettes and prairie ghosts. Now, I'm certainly not beyond finding beauty in the browns and greys of the winter landscape, but the prairie wasn't calling my name as I walked into the brisk air of the park.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Savor the Day

I feel the cold ground through my jeans, the bark of an oak against my back. It is just one of many oaks that grow rail straight on this point, a bluff raised above the surface of the lake. A camera strap drapes across my black hoodie, rising slackened to the camera in front of my face. My left eye closes as my right adjusts to the setting sun focused in my lens.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Winter's Commencement - Thoughts from the Solstice in My Garden

December 21, 2013. 11:11 CST. The temperature hovers precipitously close to freezing. A chilling rain soaks my work coat and beads on my camera as I walk through the garden to welcome the new season at the precise moment of the winter solstice. My leather boots grow darker and wetter, an audible squish, pop with each muddy step.